Students influence their way to getting monogrammed hats, T-shirts and other products from brands they tout on social media.
It’s almost a cliche: college students rarely step into the world without wearing something festooned with the logo for a Greek life, a favorite college sports team or a shapeless fuzzy sweatsuit with their college letters stamped across the butt. A new social media program called Sumpto allows college students to collect sunglasses, beer pong kits cases of Red Bull and other college-y products in exchange for Tweeting, Instagramming or posting on Facebook.
The site rewards students for being “influencers,” and doles products out to students after filtering by gender, Greek affiliation, and other criteria. Keely Warren joined Sumpto as a Freshman at East Carolina University so she could score a “Belle” Halloween costume for a discounted price. Warren has a relatively high Sumpto score of 40 and she says she puts the time in to make it count.
“I've shared a lot of things on Facebook and Twitter, I've had people ask me about it, like, ‘is this real life?’” she says. “I try and claim as many rewards as I can because, really, who doesn't want free stuff?” This is a familiar trope to anyone who has ever participated in or witnessed a college student stampede for free pizza.
CJ Ryan, a Senior marketing major at Arizona State University is taking note of Sumpto’s technique of social media sharing from a professional standpoint. He was intrigued by Sumpto, then sought out the company’s 24-year-old founder Ben Kosinski and ended up being their summer intern.
“I think that the way that Ben is approaching social media marketing and word of mouth marketing is cool,” he says, noting that marketers are often confounded by the college student market, a valuable asset in marketing terms because students are making decisions about products on their own for the first time. “When college students get free stuff from companies they are interested in, they will post it on social media. By giving us cool stuff, I get the return that I need and I’ll dedicate posts and pictures to do it.”
Students aren't the only ones believing in Sumpto. The company recently raised $350,000 in investments to help expand the company. There are approximately 15 thousand "influencers" using Sumpto, though they expect the number to tick upwards quickly in the coming weeks with a referral rewards program. Warren says that she has encouraged 178 people to use her referral link to sign up for Sumpto, and she's hoping to be in the running to win a bike or one of the larger rewards for the winners of the referral contest.
Whether or not the site creates zombie brand drones of college students or is a deft example of marketing strategy remains to be seen. Founder Ben Kosinksi believes in the exceptionalism of the Millenial generation, saying that those who grew up with Facebook and Twitter are capable of drowning out the sound of advertisers and prefer to hone in on their friends’ suggestions.
“College students have been hit with advertising at a much earlier age. We ignore media that is not coming from one of our friends and followers,” he says. Regardless of what it means for the future of marketing, students’ hum of social media activity shows them showing off their Sumpto gear loud and proud. In all caps, one student Tweeted: “anyone in college, join @sumpto now, you literally get free stuff just by using social media sites!”