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Ethan Gliechtenstein has created an app that lets users text him. It’s just like any other messaging app, except all roads lead to Rome Ethan. It is sort of combination of the old school askBONGO and Apple’s Siri, except it doesn’t cost $4.50 per message and it’s a real person answering your questions!

It started off because Ethan wasn’t on Facebook and he wanted to give his friends an easy way of contacting him. What happened next was quite bizarre. People outside of Ethan’s friendship group started to download the app and chat to him. They ask him for his advice on how to deal with bullies, what to wear and so on. He has inadvertently become the advice columnist of the digital era.

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Although I am doubtful of how the original app can scale as it becomes more popular, I feel there is potential for Ethan to make a lot of money by licensing the software to organisations.

Organisations should be looking to humanize their brand, create a transparent and genuine two-way dialogue with the consumer, and improve their customer service procedures. Although new territory fraught with risks, I feel that the “Ethan” app could help organisations achieve these goals in the hands of a savvy CM.

I can see this type of community management tool being extremely successful in a University environment. University administration is notorious for being slow, unhelpful, and lacking in empathy. “Ethan” could help give these institutions a face-lift. Not only would the administration department run more effectively, with the everyday, community-based queries being addressed by the “Ethan” team, but also students would be getting advice and information in a very human way. By this I mean, they wouldn’t just be asking the run of the mill questions such as “what day is Arts orientation?”, but more personal questions that you might ask a friend who had been at the university for a year or two, such as “where is the best coffee on campus?” or “How do you get from building A to C without getting mobbed during student election week?”.

Although Universities are already moving to platforms such as Facebook and twitter to gain this human element, some students may feel their questions are too stupid to post publicly and would prefer that “texting a friend” type experience. That said, in order to be successful the “Ethan” team would be required to not only have good knowledge about the University and University life, but also have a sense of humour and a quick wit.

Other brands might use “Ethan” in a similar way, or as part of a particular campaign. For example, it could be used like a Reddit AMA…except the consumer questions are not public and can’t be voted up and down…I obviously don’t have all the answers, but I would love to see someone apply this to a brand community.

How would you use it? Would you?