Receiving a birthday notification on a social media platform is a common source of angst for Ben Hammes’ customers, the founder of Social Afterlife said.
“We handle the memorialization or removal of social media for the deceased on behalf of the family,” Hammes said, explaining his startup. “This helps the family with dealing with the emotional distress that they will experience later on after they lose a loved one.”
Emotional concerns are not the only pain points addressed, he added. According to AARP, 2.5 million deceased people have their identities stolen each year. Hammes, a serial entrepreneur, stressed the importance of prevention via Social Afterlife.
“The more research that I did, I found out that hackers and people who steal identities get a lot of information from social media,” he said. “We completely take it out of the family’s hands, so there is no longer any need to stress about the accounts. They just have to fill out one form for us; they sign one legal document and then we have to get a copy of the death certificate. It can even be a picture.”
A unique aspect of the company is the distribution of its service, added Hammes, which includes not singling out potential customers immediately after a loss.
“I feel very strongly about not marketing to a family that has just lost a loved one. We already have about 10 funeral homes around Kansas City that are working with us that are actively giving our information to the families that they work with,” he said, emphasizing the tactic of working with service providers who already have contact with the mourners.
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Social Afterlife still focuses, however, on forming personal connections with customers while they are going through a challenging time.
“It is all done over the phone. You can’t purchase our service through our site. You call us and 24 hours a day we have a human in the US who will talk to you,” said Hammes. “We want to talk to our customers. A lot of times the reason they are contacting us is because they don’t know where to start. We just suggest that everyone gives us a call.”
Free options are available for certain tasks related to social media accounts, he said.
“If [the deceased] just have a Facebook account that [the family] want taken care of and that’s it, then a lot of times we will just tell them how to do it because it is quick and easy,” Hammes said, adding, “Only Facebook and Instagram allow memorialization.”
Full-coverage and removal options also are available, he said.
“One account is $99, and that is if they want something more complicated, such as removal. If they want the full service, we cover all major social media platforms … and trade associations,” Hammes added. “Five years down the road, if you find that your loved one had an account somewhere that you had no idea about, you can just call us.”
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The company also supports a particularly emotionally challenging death: suicide.
“We are working on getting the word out that any suicide that occurs in the Kansas City or Midwest area we will do for free,” he said. “We really want to help people out. … This is something that I really believe in.”
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