Twenty-two-year-old Michael Anav drives to meet this Times of Israel reporter in his mother’s slightly battered car — which has tools and some mud in the back seat of the vehicle. He lives in a moshav — a cooperative agricultural community — with his parents.
Straight out of the army, and untypically not choosing to travel after his three years of service as a medic, Anav has come to talk about the bootstrapped startup, Oview, which he has set up together with his childhood school friend, 23-year old Uria Franko.
The startup established a system whereby restaurants or businesses or hotels that people tag in their Instagram accounts — with pictures of themselves and others having fun — can immediately reward their tagging customers with perks, such as a chaser, or a bottle of wine, or a free dessert. The greater the reach of the Instagram users — their followers — the bigger the reward can be.
“People tend to post their best experiences on Instagram,” Anav said in an interview. Each one of us, with our friends and followers, is an influencer in our own way, he explained. So why not capitalize on that power? Why not get something in return for giving free publicity to the business or experience they are advertising to their friends?
“People deserve to be rewarded for the content they upload,” he said. “Everyone of us has value, can be an influencer. We allow businesses to give customers an incentive to tag their experiences.”
The software, written by co-founder Franco, an autodidact in programming, who was part of a classified troops logistics unit during his recent service in the army, sits atop of the Instagram platform and is able to see what users are tagging, using only publicly available data, Anav specifies.
Anav and Franco, who started off their business in their parents’ homes and now rent a shared co-working space in Tel Aviv.
Businesses sign for the Oview service, in English or Hebrew, and build a profile, by providing their email address and what kind of business they are — a bar or a restaurant. Then, they get a suggestion of items they can use as rewards. Once signed up for the service, Oview is a software as a service firm, the businesses get a real-time notification about a customer tagging themselves at their business and can send customers a pre-determined message saying things like: Thank you for your love, we’d like to give you a chaser as a reward. Or: You just tagged us, here, take a bottle of wine.
One of the clients of Oview is 32-year old Pliskin, the owner of two Tel Aviv bars, Sputnik and Voodoo. He has been using the service for the past couple of months to provide the customers who tag his bar with chasers.
“It is really cool,” Pliskin said. It gives a “very special vibe, because it creates a personal relationship between the customer and the bar. Everyone likes to post pictures and tag themselves in places. So why not get rewarded for it? It is a brilliant idea, because everyone is tagging anyway. It’s like when you do sport, and now suddenly someone rewards you for doing that.”
Pliskin said he has set up the service to automatically send chasers to one-time taggers, but if the customer becomes a regular, tagging more times, then he will give them a glass of wine or a meal or cocktail. “Customers love it,” he said. “It is a win-win for all sides.”
“There is instant gratification in play here, which is what the younger people want,” said Anav. “Our philosophy is that people should get something for tagging and taking pictures, because they are advertising the business.”
Oview is able to provide businesses with information about the number of followers the tagger has and how regularly they tag their business, to help them decide about the reward.
“I give businesses eyes to see” how customers see it on social media, said Anav.
But won’t rewarding customers taint the image of the users? People might think they are tagging just for the reward? “Users would never post something that doesn’t look good,” said Anav. “People are very particular about what their post. The reward would have to be very big to get people to recommend something they actually don’t really like.”
If people are already tagging for free, though, why would businesses want to give out rewards for the publicity they were already getting, anyway?
“Not everyone tags today,” he said. This is a way to encourage people to start tagging or to tag more, increasing brand awareness for the firm.
Oview is already selling its software to businesses for a monthly fee, including hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs, personal trainers, and also fitness centers in Tel Aviv, Elat, Be’er Sheva and Ashkelon, as well a resort in Sri Lanka and a hotel in Thailand, frequented by young Israelis. The firm is also turning to brands – like Coca Cola, and footwear and clothing brands.
“We want to get to a situation where as many businesses as possible work with us,” Anav said. Other social media platforms Oview is eyeing are Snap or even Facebook, Anav said. “Depends on where the market will take us.”