People – especially young people – are increasingly turning to social media to seek answers about everything from what they should wear on a date to where they should go to college.
One Philadelphia businessman is seeking to capitalize on the development, so much so that he's trademarked the term "social decision making" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
"We knew we wanted to do something in social media and we wanted to something that's a logical next step," said Michael Rizzo, whose free smartphone app Choozum encourages participants to vote on user-submitted multiple choice surveys.
"You've got one-eighth of human beings on Facebook sharing, inviting each other to events – so many activities are happening – but very little are you actually leveraging that base to help you do things."
With Choozum, Rizzo seeks to do just that, syncing with Facebook so users can share surveys and invite friends to vote.
"If you want to ask your five favorite people where you should go vacate or where you should go eat tonight or whatever, all of those people are going to get a notification on Facebook within a half-second of you posting on Choozum," Rizzo said.
"However long it takes to see the notification and get a response back, you're going to get statistics calculated very differently than anybody else it doing today."
"What we're finding is the younger side of our demographic – say, 16, 17 – they're really not private. They like to do things publicly," Rizzo said.
"They like to show off their new hairstyle, they like to show off the new dress they're buying or their new favorite One Direction album. They love that pop culture stuff and pop culture, just by virtue of the word 'popular,' is not private."
Older users, in contrast, tend to seek input exclusively from people they know, according to Rizzo.
"As people come onto the app and start realizing that there is this capability that allows you to ask a bunch of people something privately, not post it in a public community – maturity and evolution factor into that," he said.
"I think as the popularity of Choozum grows, we will start seeing people using it the way they use email – 'Who wants go to for happy hour tonight?' – and blast it out, instead of sending out five or 10 emails and having to gather the responses and do the math. In less than one minute, you can do a survey, all the statistics are cultivated and – boom – the choice is made."
"We decided to hire ambassador interns, Choozum ambassadors or evangelists," he said, adding the interns must be elected officials within their sororities or fraternities and rattling off a list of colleges where the app has a presence.
He said the app has been most popular with women, who largely use it for the purposes of party planning and shopping for fashion and apparel.
"There's a lot of opinions on who wore it better," Rizzo said.
"One of the senators of the sororities at Nova Southeastern, she has several hundred sorority sisters and is asking the opinion of 40 or 50 of them which shoes she should wear to the awards ceremony. Instead of asking people she doesn't know, who don't know her personality and have no correlation to her style, she asked privately."
Rizzo said he hopes to use college students as a test market, of sorts, to decide how to expand the app in the future – possibly by offering corporate sponsors the opportunity to pay to have market research surveys featured on Choozum.
"The thinking is that particular audience will help define our enhancements – the way people use the app, what features they want next," he said.
"And then we hope that outside of Greek life that other people in other segments will start to utilize the app, as well."