SAN ANTONIO – “You already post the things you love on social media. Why not get rewarded for it?”
Good question and the 2016 Business Plan Competition winner, H-E-B School of Business and Administration student Ramil Rodriguez, may have the answer.
In the few seconds it took to read the previous sentence, over 3,000 pictures were posted to Instagram, 20,000 tweets hit the social sphere and over two million messages were sent on Facebook. In one minute, these posts, shares and comments will have grown exponentially.
On Wednesday, Jan. 27, Rodriguez was recognized for his business plan Social Stash, a third-party hub that connects social media users with organizations and their advertising budgets. As a marketing major, Rodriguez sought to combine his knowledge of advertising, branding and market strategy with the perpetual compounding effect of social media newsfeeds.
For his efforts, Rodriguez was awarded first place and a cash prize of $2,000.
Social Stash utilizes the advantages of the digital marketplace and the growing influence of social media networks on brand recognition and consumer purchases. The average social media user spends almost two hours per day scrolling through feeds; Rodriguez wants to monetize their time. Condensed, Social Stash allows ordinary consumers to become “influencers” or brand champions, stimulated to do so by tangible incentives.
Social media influencers are considered those who have a sizable audience and hold great sway within that segment. Influencers are commonly celebrities, bloggers, pundits and analysts, who receive considerable sums of cash or products to publicize their support for a brand. Social Stash seeks to tap into the user population that doesn’t have a household name or a verified Twitter account. Social Stash targets users with 200 – 500 followers.
“Large businesses generally only sponsor social media influencers who have a high quantity of followers or are well known societal figures, leaving out masses of prospective brand advocates,” explained Rodriguez. “I saw the potential to fill in that gap.”
That gap may seem more like a crater. According to the social media branding company Dash Hudson, on Instagram alone, organizations worldwide collectively spend between $1 billion and $1.5 billion per year on influencers, but only a small percentage of those eager to become brand advocates are tapped.
Social Stash dilutes the fray between individuals and organizations by creating “brand campaigns”. Social media users engage in a brand campaign, facilitated by Social Stash, which is then available for organizations to purchase. “The campaigns are incentivized by reward programs, much like the programs that solicit you to fill out an online survey to receive a gift card,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez gave his final presentation of the competition to an audience of UIW students, faculty and members of the local business community.
The second place award went to MOVE Industries, a technology venture company that set it sights on entering the high-dollar retail software industry. Created by engineering management major Bret Roberts and management major Francisco Merayo, MOVE Industries digitizes the in-store shopping experience by utilizing a hybrid platform that increases the ease and efficiency of store functions. For instance, utilizing an in-store virtual shopping cart and replacing standard shelves with screen showcases for product viewing and interaction.
Merayo took advantage of his experiential background as a manager in his family-owned grocery stores in Mexico to cultivate the idea. “There hasn’t been a substantial improvement in retail industry operations and, we felt by combining the advancements in retail technologies, we could do something more efficient and cost effective.”
The Business Plan Competition challenges entrepreneurial students to create a fully developed commercial strategy. The competition encourages participants to transform a business idea from the concept phase to a full business plan ready for implementation. Students attended workshops, hammered out revisions and presented their final products to a panel of faculty members and local business leaders.
Over four months, beginning the previous fall semester, each team or individual participates in conceptualization workshops focused on business planning and financials. Participants are then tasked with refining their ideas, developing implementation strategies and providing their own market research.
Now in its seventh year, the business plan competition attracted more than 50 students with 22 business concepts submitted.