An Insider's Look at Gated Social Networks Entrepreneur Heidi Landau gives us a taste of how the other half lives online.

By Lindsay Holloway

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Gated social networks are elite online clubs unlike any other. The members are of diverse nationalities and professional backgrounds, though most have executive or CEO in their titles. They're the people with money and power, the movers and shakers in their industries. What a great network for an entrepreneur to have access to--just think of the business relationships, partnerships and deals that could be made.

Heidi Landau is a member of A Small World, one of the more popular gated networks. She shares what membership has done for her and her business, Landau Luxury Ltd., a Vancouver, British Columbia-based marketing consulting firm.

Entrepreneur: How did you get invited?
Heidi Landau:
I networked with friends from Manhattan and received unsolicited invites to several gated social networking sites. Once you become a member, you join a very exclusive network that carries you from one network to another. In my network, there are princesses, barons, countesses, CEOs, models and millionaires and billionaires. Quickly I was on the [gated social network] scene, being invited into two or three a week--more than I could keep up with. Once you're part of an exclusive network of friends, you recognize them everywhere, and vice-versa. They travel in the same circles and have many similar interests.

Entrepreneur: Why did you ultimately join? Was it for the business networking aspect?
I'm an ardent networker, and I make friends with many of my networking associations. These days anyone who goes online just to make friends is setting himself up for disappointment. In business, you have a better chance by offering quid pro quo.
I've used A Small World to locate associates of interest to do business. There's a wealth of opportunity to match personal vision with like-minded professionals on the site.

Entrepreneur: What's it like being part of such an exclusive "club"?
Mariel Hemingway joined the day after I did, but a lot of university students and everyday managers are there, too. I think ASW has lost a lot of the foretold exclusivity of its earlier years, which gave it legendary appeal. Without due membership diligence, integrity on such a site will never be maintained. Vetting new members should be an essential expense.

Entrepreneur: What are the members like?
Landau: Twenty-five percent of my [connections] are CEO's living in New York City, London or a major European or Middle Eastern city. Thirty-five percent are top executives in luxury markets and emerging technologies. No one holds less than a managerial position at a fine establishment, with the exception of moneyed playboys, glittering socialites and a splattering of gorgeous fashion models and industry photographers.

Entrepreneur: What sort of business opportunities have you been able to take advantage of since joining?
I've been invited to numerous international networking parties and soirees, and the mere mention of ASW is often the key to an otherwise closed door. The "secret society" allows members to be at ease with one another to a degree that is not usual on the internet scene, and it's simply because ASW attracts a high level of respect, courtesy and ease among the people in its site.
I would definitely consider a partnership with ASW members, particularly in [areas] where I have a fabulous business planned, but I'm still looking for the right partners.
[With my background], I get quite a few requests for collaboration or offers for referrals. I definitely employ ASW as a networking tool because of the fabulousness of its membership community.

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