Among the first online social networks, ASMALLWORLD (ASW) is a private international travel and social club for members (rich & famous people) seeking to build relationships and share extraordinary experiences. At one of their recent weekend getaways, celebrities like Kangana Ranaut & Freida Pinto had also attended. In fact, Kangana Ranaut even hosted a brunch to introduce ASMALLWORLD to India.
ASW Members benefit from a global community of trusted friends in hundreds of cities around the world with access to discounts from over 500 top-tier international brands in fashion, travel, and luxury.
Although the network did start with a big bang, some existing members feel nothing much is happening inside ASW. By increasing in size it seems to have lost touch with the initial members and looked more like “aBigWorld” than “aSmallWorld”. Currently it seems to be completely overrun by promoters and seems to add little value.
Lets here the truth from Sabine Heller, CEO of ASMALLWORLD, world’s leading international travel and lifestyle community.
From a business model that was previously based on advertising, the new ASMALLWORLD is shifting to a subscription model. With a peer-recommended and verified user base capped at 250,000 and a bold new set of amenities for its members, ASMALLWORLD will transform into the world’s leading international travel and lifestyle community – Its the second coming in social media.
Imagine this – from the moment you hit the ground in any city, you’ve got the best insider recommendations, discounts at dozens of stylish boutiques, a free spa treatment, an invitation to a party that night, locals who welcome you, automatic access to a club – and to top it off you’re staying at a great hotel, at a major discount. ASMALLWORLD will introduce an impressive set of new offerings for its members in India and the world over, transforming from a social network into an international travel and lifestyle club. Part Indian herself, CEO Sabine Heller is personally very excited to have Indian fashion designers, retailers and hotels as part of ASW’s future.
In an exclusive interview with TradeBriefs.com, CEO Sabine Heller speaks to us on their flagship offering, social media in travel and much more:
Tell us more about the USP of ASMALLWORLD in the lifestyle club space
Being a member of ASMALLWORLD is the best way to get the inside track (and awesome deals) in any city! Our strength lies in being able to offer our members a sense of belonging, anywhere in the world.
The ease of international travel has made the world smaller. Exploring a city with guide-book in hand is outdated; ASW is replacing fold-out maps with friendly faces. From Tokyo to Beirut, ASW highlights hotels, shops and restaurants that recognize members and offers them insider rates. Tapping into local communities, attending parties and linking up with fellow travelers is easy on ASW.
As part of our reinvention, we aim to become the definitive travel and social resource for people truly international in sensibility and lifestyle. By way of an evolving website and recommendation platform, members will ever more become mavens of what they love, sharing with the ASW community their personal city and travel favorites. Meeting members is about to get a whole lot easier through an ultra smart website that will help connect members with things in common. Membership will also grant access to an expanded events program and exclusive global privileges.
How was the journey for ASMALLWORLD between the first stint and the second coming as a social platform? Any specific learning you would like to share with our audience?
ASMALLWORLD started in 2004. It was founded by a Swedish Count named Erik Wachtmeister, and in many ways had a first mover advantage in social media. For most adults it was their first experience with social media – and for the initial members it was pretty intoxicating to discover a totally different form of communication. That level of excitement was added to by the fact that you had to be invited, and invitations were scarce.
Later in 2005, when Harvey Weinstein became the majority shareholder, the board made an assumption that seemed logical at that time. The assumption was predicated on the notion that ad buys are decided on a global level. However, this proved false. Media buyers buy advertising locally not globally. Since ASW had limited penetration in most markets, the company had to bend over backwards to create complicated customer integrations for each partner. This led to an inefficient non-consumer facing business environment, as all resources were focused on maximizing revenue.
Additionally, the company functioned in a pre-crash mentality. Big-name investors and board members were eager to pump up revenue and capital, and flip the company. Before 2008, the strategy could have worked, but after the market crash of 2008 it became clear there had to be a shift approach. ASW had to now build a long-term, long-lasting business strategy – one that was consumer-facing. Ultimately, ASW had to be committed to driving member value at all costs, in the form of experiences, upgrades and perks. This led to our reinvention in the spring of 2013, as the definitive travel and lifestyle club, remaking one of the world’s oldest social networks as a subscription service, costing $105/year.
Are you planning to tie up with online travel sites that can be good catchment areas for your marketing activities?
Developing our user experience is our core focus moving forward. If a like minded brand, online or offline, adds value to our service proposition, we are open to collaborating with them.
Travel in India is being my driven by social media. People consult travel forums before taking a travel related decision. Your views on the same?
Making well informed, peer-recommended decisions for one’s travel plans is exactly what we encourage and enable at ASMALLWORLD. In fact, part of our extensive offering is our online magazine called The Globalist which features goings-on in the community, travel content, and curated-and-updated city guides.
What makes us truly special is the sense of belonging we offer our members, and the possibility of new friendships anywhere in the world. What that means practically, is that I could travel to Cape Town and find hotels and shops that recognize me, enter a club that recognizes me, attend great events and access a community of people that I could reach out to for anything I might need.
Another core value that distinguishes ASW is trust, and by moving towards a paid structure, ASW will have a fully verified user base which will ensure the integrity of the community in a way that no social network has ever done before.
How critical a role would social media play in aligning your corporate goals to marketing activities? What strategies do you have to reach out to people on social media?
We use many social media platforms – Twitter, Instragram, Facebook to get our message out and we use our own public facing blog, The ASW Globalist as a communication tool in that regard as well.