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Stoupons: The New College Student Discount

I am currently a Senior Entrepeneurship major at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. My past experience includes 3 internships in Social Media Marketing, a Dr. Seuss type book on the subject called Curatoria (link to text below, illustration in the works), and many hours spent studying the field. I first got started when I founded Studense in 2011. When I got to college I was amazed at how involved students were in social media. We came to school and connected. That's what we did. For us, the ways to connect weren't so much exchanging numbers or e-mails. It was adding each other on Facebook, following each other on Twitter, and building 'friends' and 'followers' lists that were way too large. Did you know the average college student has 5x the friend count on Facebook tthan the average user? Imagine a train trying to drive on the Ocean. That was my first year at school grades wise. 

In 2011, after a talk with my Dad at the Phillies game, I decided to take a leave of absense and try my hand at my first startup. My Dad is the best, he viewed it as an educational experience for me. He probably had a lot more in mind than that, but I couldn't know, he's just a wise man. 

I saw the rapid growth in Daily Deals with Groupon and LivingSocial and thought: "Hm, local businesses are drawing in this demographic with 'student coupons', maybe if I limit the sign up on a site to active .edu addresses early I could start a daily deal site and sell the businesses on a 'new student coupon.'" 

If you've read up on the Daily Deal business model you've read up on the problems. 'It costs way more than is advertised.' 'Deal hunters are the only ones that buy: cheap customers!' 'Will they even come back?'. Unfortunately, in 2011, I was unprepared to overcome all of these issues. I had no experience in B2B. I had run a textbook resale business through High School and that first year of college, so I knew how to draw students well, but I soon found out I had a nasty fear for approaching small business owners and asking for money. Growing up a lot of dinner table talk was focused on my Dad's business. For small business owners money is Tight with a capital T. When the economy started its struggles in 2009 I really got to know how much every dollar counts. I was scared to ask for money. I didn't know if the model would work. If it failed, how would I handle it? I would feel terrible. What if students really never did come back in, and I wasted their dollars that could have been spent elsewhere online?

Since then, I've worked those 3 internships, talked with countless small business owners on the subject, developed my idea for over 2 years off college student input, and made a small tweak. The site is developed. The contacts are made. The students are definitely interested. The strategy is in place. 

Now, it's time to execute the tweaked plan. 

Stoupons are still daily deals. Businsesses in the Philadelphia sign up to run a deal and recieve 50% of all revenues after credit card and processing fees are deducted. 

Now, deals are activated by social shares, not 'x number of students need to buy the deal to activate it.' 

Let's take an example: 

Mark's Burgers wants to run a deal $5 for $10 worth of goods in the shop. They set the number of shares to 50. We post the deal on the agreed upon date and when the deal is shared for a total of 50 times on Facebook and Twitter the deal is on. If the deal is shared 49 times, the deal is not on and the business still gets exposure in those huge friends lists. 

Stoupons is a social business for a social demographic. College students spent A LOT of time on social media, are quick to adopt new networks, and, most importantly, have those huge friend lists. 

I can't promise a business that a customer will come back in, but I can promise that unless they reach many thousand college students in the area the deal will never even be activated. They will not lose any money unless they get mass exposure on the networks. 

I have developed brochures, blog posts, and how-to's on social media for our partners. When they run the deal, they post it on their page and we share it to our network on Facebook or Twitter. 

Our Twitter is for customer support and interaction only. No deals will be posted. 

Our Pinterest page covers topics near and dear to the college demographic. Guys: Philly sports pictures. Girls: Cute puppies with funny captions. Everyone: Unique businesses to the area. 

A city guide has been developed featuring businesses in the regions of the city, short descriptions, and tips on transportation. 

A third party handles the backend, the payments, and the phone service for the local businesses. 

The goal is to use the social habits of college students to create massive value for small businesses that see value in the demographic and social media. A campaign with us is a campaign on social media. At the same time, the businesses are reaching the constantly changing student body in local universities. Our city has over 300,000 cstudents with active .edu addresses. The reason they interact with brands the most? Coupons. 

I'm using Gary's lessons here to craft possible strategies on Tumblr. 

On Instagram, we have tested date and event specific hashtags that use the network's infrastructures to act as memory books. People can click a hashtag for #SJUGraduation14 and see the day from many angles. 

I highly reccomend Gary's talks at Web 2.0 conferences from years past and other seminars he has taken part in. The Thank You Economy is still the best book on the subject. 

Good luck with your projects everyone! 

Bill

Link to Curatoria: 

http://www.scribd.com/doc/187694938/Curatoria-A-Social-Media-Galaxy

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