By Lydia Melby, Arts Editor
With most of the business world in the midst of a mass transition to computers and the Internet, almost everyone is trying to harness the capabilities of cyberspace. Four students from ACU have done just that.
Seniors Ryan Stephen, finance major from Spring, and Garrett Winder, accounting major from Aledo, and ACU graduates Chad Hutchins and Jon Hinson, are the creators of Social Web Research, a client relationship management system that helps businesses find new ways to build relationships and network with their clients.
“It’s a tool for businesses and consultants to find out how to engage their customers on social networks.We know how to best focus our efforts using this,” Stephen said. “Like when you go into J. Crew and they ask you for your e-mail address or ZIP code, they are building some data on you as one of their customers… All companies have one of these systems; ACU has one, even your church has one.”
Social Web Research is a Web site allowing businesses to pay to receive information on how many or what percentage of their clients are using which social networks. SWR currently charges $100 per every 1,000 contacts and requires businesses to upload a data file containing their clients’ contact information.
Stephen said the program has the capabilities to search any social networking site, according to the requests of the business, and SWR already has performed searches for the major social networks of Facebook, Myspace, Hi5, Twitter, Linked In and Plaxo.
“We want to make it relevant to each customer, so it shifts depending on who you are and what you’re after,” Stephen said.
He also said privacy rights were “a definite concern” and the group was careful to be conscious of personal rights when creating the program.
“We do have a couple of competitors that are very invasive to privacy, but the only information we see is whatever is already public,” Stephen said.
The Web site, which can be accessed at www.socialwebresearch.com, already has received recognition in the business world. A speaker at the SugarCon 2009 conference in early February mentioned SWR in his presentation.
Stephen said the speaker pulled up their Web site and talked about how it is one of the only things of its kind currently, and how it is doing it in a better way than a lot of people are.
“It has definitely had some outside interest, and we’ve been talking to some Web consultants who are very interested in using it,” Stephen said.
Garrett Winder, one of the Web site’s co-creators, said he was pleased with the program’s success thus far.
“We just opened the program to the public probably a little less than two weeks ago, and our first sale was $500, and that was about one day later,” Winder said. “This week we have a sale going through that’s close to $1,700, and it’s starting to pick up a little bit.”
The team is going to a conference in Miami to learn more about improving its program. Right now the program has a guaranteed turnaround time of 48 hours, whether 1,000 or 50,000 customers are uploaded. Winder said they are trying to work that time down.
Stephen also said the group is working on Version 2 of the program, and it should be launched soon. One of the new features of the second version is that it will be able to return information broken down into more specific demographics, in addition to the general overview it provides now.
The idea for the program grew out of a similar program the group created as a part of last year’s Springboard competition, called SocialChurch.
“SocialChurch is a Facebook application we’re still working on right now, and we actually started it to figure out how many churches have people on Facebook,” Winder said. “Then we built this program to figure out where people are and give you some quick statistics and break down some graphs, and we thought, ‘hey, that’s actually a product in and of itself.'”
Stephen said the group has big goals for the two programs for the upcoming year, and they already have seen much in the way of progress.
“What we are really passionate about is that we think social networks are a great way to build relationships, and the best sales are made from relationships,” Stephen said. “A cold call to somebody to sell something, whether it be your Christianity or your product, is not going to work as well as building a meaningful relationship and offering your product where it is needed.”