"Ideas, articles, and opinions could quickly grab traction in college," says the 24-year-old who graduated from UM in 2011. "College students are very connected to each other online and easily influenced by their peers."
Post-graduation and not as immersed in college life, Kosinski was able to look at college demographics with a fresh perspective. "Brands were advertising to them, and I was able to see just how ineffective their advertising and marketing efforts were."
Kosinski founded Sumpto in 2012 to measure the social influence of college students and connect relevant companies with their community of college influencers. Instead of brands promoting their products, Sumpto lets influential college students do the talking for them. In return, the influencers get free products, perks and exclusive access to the newest products on the market.
"Social networks are held extremely close to college students. It's largely a network for both social maintenance, such as connections with friends from high school who are enrolled at other schools, and social discovery, like friend requesting the cute girl that sits two rows ahead of you in economics," says Kosinski. "Because of this, brands require a credible introduction."
Kosinski figured if he could identify the influential college students through the Sumpto Score, then they could help introduce the brand to their network via credible, word-of-mouth recommendations. The Sumpto Score for each student is determined by:
- Facebook activity
- Twitter engagement
- Instagram engagement
- Information gathered through surveys about the university they attend, their major, year in school, clubs and organizations they're involved in, and Greek affiliation
Once Pinterest releases their API, Sumpto plans to include that into its algorithm, as well as possibly Vine and Tumblr.
Brands have had to rely on ineffective giveaways, traditional media, or campus rep programs until Sumpto came along. For example, Sumpto partnered with Jabra and sought out 25 of the most influential college students in music. Each influencer was given a free pair of Jabra REVO Wireless Headphones to wear around campus and become brand ambassadors. This generated 487 likes and 276 comments on Facebook, resulting in an immediate reach of more than 7.5 million unique impressions for the brand.
"We help college students get rewarded for being themselves," Kosinski says about the NYC-based social startup. "More specifically, we reward students for being part of the demographic that is difficult to reach, for representing over $120 billion a year in discretionary spending, for beginning to make independent purchasing decisions, and for forming their brand loyalties, which could last a lifetime."
Since launching out of beta in early September, Sumpto has garnered 17,500 college influencers with more than 1,800 students who have claimed Sumpto rewards. Following on the heels of this, Sumpto secured $350K in funding from investors that include SocialStarts.net and Nick Brien, former CEO of McCANN Group.
"I think that if we're able to continue connecting brands with influencers, there will be tremendous opportunity for us to explore what happens when our influencers graduate," Krosinski says. "We have to be constantly aware of Sumpto's social voice and continue to reward college influencers with stuff they would want to talk about. If we lose our appeal and divert from our overall mission, we'll be just like the brands who can't engage with college students."