How to design and run online networks for senior executives

From our latest FastCompany column, Online Golf Courses: How to design and run online networks for senior executives:

Let us say that you are a senior executive — now, or hopefully in the future. You may be wary of participating in many of the online networks. Why? Online networks are typically much more accessible than face-to-face networks — you don’t have to fly all the way to Aspen to meet people at the ski lodge there.

As a result, they tend to attract a lot of the “have-nots.” With no disrespect, the “have-nots” are the job-seekers, the recent college graduates, the pre-revenue startups seeking funding, and all the other people who are trying to get something, but have a small power base. The “haves” are people like you: the senior executives at prominent companies, the venture capitalists, and all the other people who are deluged with people trying to access them.

There are two ways to design an online network to attract the “haves”. One is to design it so requests to members must pass through social filters. That’s the LinkedIn approach; I can only send a request to Bill Gates if one of our intermediary connections is willing to say my request is reasonable. The other approach is to make it hard to enter the network in the first place. For example, to join the International Executives Resource Group, you must pass a telephone interview, have a salary of over $150,000, and have at least five years of international executive experience.