Exclusive: Sneak peek at Pursuitist’s social network for affluent consumers & luxury brands

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It’s the country club come to the Internet: Pursuitist, the website about all things high-end, is getting ready to unveil a new social layer for those who live the good life.

Right now, as a Pursuitist spokesperson noted in a chat with VentureBeat, “There is not a Trip Advisor or Yelp for the luxury category.” So Pursuitist aims to become the Yelp for the upper class.

Pursuitist began as a blog about luxury goods and services. The second phase of the site will include user-generated reviews and rankings, social user profiles with Facebook and Twitter integration, brand pages, an iOS application for iPhone and iPad and an HTML5 interface for other tablets and smartphones.

All the new Pursuitist features will launch on November 1, 2011.

“Affluent consumers have a difficult time cutting through the clutter,” Pursuitist CEO Christopher Parr told VentureBeat in an email. “When I’m visiting a new city and searching for a great hotel or recommended restaurant, it’s frustrating to browse through Yelp and Trip Advisor.”

Call it sociologically crass, but the idea of a luxo online community is also economically smart. It has the same pedestrian purposes as does a network for moms, music fiends or any other easily identified consumer segment: divide and conquer. By handily getting users to self-idenity as highly qualified leads in specific niches, these networks are able to pitch their audiences to brands all the better.

“As we’re able to serve up a targeted audience, luxury brands love our platform,” said Parr. “Pursuitist is truly a targeted online destination for luxury advertisers to connect and engage with affluent consumers.” Parr rattled off a dizzying list of labels Pursuitist has worked with so far, including Burberry, Coach, BMW, Gucci, Hermes, Chanel and many, many others.

“As we only focus on premier brands and destinations, we are selective of the brands we feature,” he concluded.

Niche social networks for the rich (or the posing-as-rich-on-the-Internet) are nothing new. aSmallWorld has had its invite-only “community of internationally minded people” since 2004. Decayenne was a similar invite-only site for rich Europeans and Americans; founded in 2001, it shut its digital doors in 2010 due to the changing climate of social networking. And every few months, we hear about a new Facebook-for-wealthy-people. For example, there was the subtly named Affluence.org and the luxury-focused Squa.re.

So when Pursuitist launched in the beginning of 2009 as luxury blog, it was already coming into a crowded space, if not into direct competition with this slew of ham-fisted attempts to capture the fat cat market (and the high-end advertisers that want to zero in on the aforementioned fat cat market).

But perhaps by focusing on those willing and able to buy and review luxury goods, Pursuitist may have dodged the bane of earlier invite-only social networks: the social-climbing hanger-on with whom the affluent don’t want to associate and to whom the high-end brands don’t need to advertise. By focusing on purchasing power rather than social demarcation, Pursuitist dodges some of the snobbery accusations aimed at its predecessors.

Each luxury brand on Pursuitist will get its own page, but while the brands will be able to comment on the content there, they won’t control it. Pursuitist’s social users will be able to follow brands, write reviews, give luxury rankings, upload images of places or things and share links or videos about the brand and its goods or services.

“That’s how we’re disrupting the luxury industry,” said Parr. “The brands are used to being in control — with our platform, affluent consumers are in control.”

pursuitist luxury social network

And of course, interaction with brands has been gamified; the user with the most interactions with any given brand will get the brand’s logo as a profile badge. It’s similar to what GetGlue does for non-rich consumers and non-luxury brands and topics and what Foursquare famously did for branded and non-branded location-based actions.

As for Pursuitist users, each person has their own profile page. The profiles can be linked to websites, Facebook and Twitter. Profiles will show a user’s activity on Pursuitist, including any reviews they have written or photos they have uploaded. Friends on the network and brands they follow will also be listed on the profiles.

“I’ve spent the last 10 years around affluent consumers, and they love to share their favorite luxuries,” said Parr.

“They like to recommended products… They’re big luxury brand advocates and can’t wait to share with their friends.”


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