This month contained a set of important milestones for us, including:
1) the completion of our first complete version, helping students expand their awareness of the relevance of their academics
2) employing graduates and current students in the marketing of our offering
We are seeing several important new trends in our work. These include including the users in the profit structure of the organization, and enhancing the user experience to expand the real time data informing them.
Including Users in Our Profit Structure
We firmly believe that our core user group are students. Corporations are the other major user group apart from this group, but we have learned that student mass is the primary attraction of corporations, not the opposite. Given the importance of attracting students to use our offerings, we have implemented a new program compensating student leaders on campus to attract students. We could spend monies on advertising, public relations and other means, but paying students to spread word of our system has a far different effect. Students respect the opinion of other students, and should not learn about what we have to offer from an ad on facebook. Getting students to see our system in action means paying members of their peer group to instruct others about Next.
I believe that the end-effect is potentially a tradition where our profit structure is significantly shared by the users. If in future years we can expand this practice, we will have this to say: this is a system that benefits students, and it is build by students. We hope to reflect on the success of this program in the next four months.
Enhancing the User Experience
In February we set about marketing the first version of Next Acropolis. We found several important things:
1) students who created an eportfolio did markedly better in seeking jobs, due to the exposure of their preparation. These students were able to escape the "black box" effect of the traditional resume.
2) Our services had to attract more employers to create news / blogs / jobs. This is difficult with only a small group of users, when employers desire a mass of students to pick from.
We respect their opinion and are actively implementing new features that provide a wide array of real-time data, blogging, and job leads from the wider web. In the June release users will find a vast array of data associated with how their studies are relevant right now: which companies share your focus, which jobs are open now in your area, and what bloggers are saying related to your research.
Given the insight possible from the eportfolio, and the ability to pull in data associated with how to use your research focus, the system now has a data-intensive means to instruct students on possible career direction. We hope to learn more about how students use this panoply of information, and construct decisions.
Compared to our Quarter 1 release, we are learning how to engage the user as the community of users grow. This reveals two tiers of use of the system, 1) a social tier, where users interact based on shared interests, and 2) an individual, user-centric system that cultivate data for the user. In this market, these represent two coherent trends in Internet use since 2000, and the rise of first, Google and search engines economics, and second, social networking systems. As a hybrid system incorporating the potentials of both typologies, we have more to learn, and we expect these new developments in how we market, and how we structure the user experience will yield new learnings in how to grow and succeed.
We are keenly interested in how our users value location-specific information, and are therefore energized by new pacts between VISA and Gap, as well as corporate collaborations between Foursquare and others. The internet community is learning how to pool this data into increasingly meaningful data packages for consumers. We doubt that location has vast meaning for college students, but can see better linkages between what they study, who needs such skills in local economies, and how to cluster groups of users into more meaningful groups, and match those groupings with employers.
On our core site we are documenting the importance of student groups to recruiters. We hope to promote the use of these tools to our student-users, whom we expect to form small groups for the purpose of job-hunting, and attracting the recruitment of companies. We are aiming to enable local firms to transact recruiting business with us, for the purpose of reaching these neatly-ordered groups of talent. This goes above and beyond what competing firms are doing. This is yet another example of the search-driven nature of the web, coupled with enhanced social features.