A business plan hatched in a kosher cafeteria last fall by seven New York University students — including one from Livingston — is seeking to create new economic capital by linking the Internet’s two leading social networks with new business ties in Israel and the United States
The students are the American branch of eDealya, a marketing firm that operates at the Omer Industrial Park in Israel. They are currently operating out of a third-floor conference room at NYU’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business, seeking corporate customers for eDealya software that, they say, promises to increase sales and profits through Facebook and Twitter.
“Today most companies and brands have distinct Facebook fan pages and Twitter followers,” explained Kenneth Safar, a marketing and finance major from Livingston, as he looked up from his laptop at a table in the conference room. “These companies’ social communities are continuing to grow and grow exponentially, and it has changed the dynamic in the ways companies can reach out to their fans and followers,” he said.
“A corporate Facebook page may be good, but it is not really maximizing what this personal information could bring to the table using eDealya’s software,” Safar said. “We want to make relationships more one-to-one, where the company reaches out to the consumer, based on the need the consumer may be expressing.”
Flipping through pages of a PowerPoint sales pitch, the NYU sophomore spoke of a potential consumer named “Jack” to illustrate the start-up’s goal.
“Let’s say Jack is active on Facebook and Twitter and has indicated that he likes Columbia Sportswear. Columbia Sportswear would like to target Jack with the right offer at the right time, but how would it know how and when to do it? This is where we come in.
“Our software can spot and respond to Jack’s buying intentions,” Safar continued. “Let’s say Jack writes on his Facebook page, ‘I’m so excited to go camping this weekend.’ So Columbia writes to him: ‘Hey, Jack. Have fun on your camping trip. We want to make sure you have all the right equipment, so take 15 percent off on any of our items.’”
‘A cultural edge’
Using a technique called “natural language processing,” which incorporates English euphemisms and metaphors, “our system tries to learn how the corporate fans are talking on-line, then tries to make its response as accurate as possible,” said Safar.
One question Safar faces often as he makes sales pitches to prospective corporate clients is whether the eDealya software intrudes on people’s privacy. Safar has a ready answer.
“When you look at e-marketing surveys, they show over 77 percent of people who become fans of these brands on Facebook and Twitter are doing so with the underlying motive of benefiting monetarily,” he said.
Safar and his colleagues say they are motivated by “an ideological connection to Israel.” They connect with eDealya’s home office frequently via Web conferencing, and, according to Safar, “we offer them a cultural edge. We speak their language, and we can help them gain access to the New York Metropolitan area.”
They are paid by the Israelis strictly on a commission basis; “only when the brands we service make money do we make money,” he explained.
Safar, the son of David and Rachelle Safar, is a member of the Suburban Torah Center in Livingston and a graduate of Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston. He has been working on the project full-time since finishing his freshman-year final exams in May. He expects his commitment to the venture will extend far beyond next semester, and he believes the corporate connections he is working to forge with the social media will continue to endure.
“I see social media as definitely sticking around,” he said. “People want to feel they exist in this greater network that connects everyone around the world.”