Real-life social networker aware of 'flash-mob' risk

The venture launched in Wellington with a barbecue, naturally, and music in a public park

Mention “social networking” these days — particularly in the same breath as “website” — and the first thought will be of people communicating online through postings and blogs or Twitter and Facebook.

New venture KiwiBBQ takes a different slant. “We’re trying to persuade people to come out from behind the screens,” says director Raewyn Mansfield. The website (www.kiwibbq.com) is meant only to provide an initial way for people to become acquainted.

The events at which members socialise and network will be live.

The venture was launched earlier this month in Wellington with a barbecue, naturally, and music in a public park.

The KiwiBBQ idea was inspired by a friend of Mansfield’s who she says seemed to have a knack of introducing people to one another and hosting successful social gatherings. She died earlier this year of cancer while still in her 30s, and Mansfield and other friends and acquaintances set up the company as a memorial to her and a means of helping support her three-year-old daughter.

A trust for the young girl’s benefit is a shareholder in the company.

A $20-a-year fee buys an account on the site, where members can post invitations to get-togethers and explore events in their area. At present, KiwiBBQ is Wellington-focused, but with a .com domain the potential is there to launch into other NZ centres and potentially overseas, Mansfield says.

KiwiBBQ planned to add value to its membership card by arranging discounts for members, but before it actively explored the idea found local companies making unsolicited approaches, she says. Currently a security company and a tyre merchant are signed up as partners.

The site has an unusually long list of terms and conditions, rejecting members with certain criminal convictions and reserving the right to expel members for offences such as impersonating another member.

“You could be inviting these people into your home, after all,” Mansfield says.

The company must be sure it and its members are insulated from the consequences of unacceptable behaviour and pranks such as false notification of events. You wouldn’t want a thousand people descending on you expecting a barbecue because someone else thought it was funny to create a fictitious notice, Mansfield says.

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