How to grow your private student social network using Katalyst

CLiK screenshotSquare Crop Studios has seen an incredible response rate since they announced the launch of Katalyst, a private student social networking platform in April. TJ Donnelly, President and CEO of Square Crop Studios told me earlier this week that the company has already launched Katalyst with almost 60 campuses in North America and anticipates being on upwards of 125 campuses by September.

While the company is winning Katalyst contracts on new campuses almost daily now, Donnelly singled out Niagara College, which has seen significant growth since their private student social network called CLiK launched at the end of the 2010-2011 school year.

I spoke with two Niagara College Student Administration Council (NCSAC) representatives, Adam Maiolo and Hagler Chanthilath, who helped to launch CLiK on the Katalyst platform.

Why use a private social network instead of Facebook?

Maiolo told me that there were already a number of NCSAC groups on Facebook and “the Niagara College presence was starting to get watered down. Each year, the new student council would create its own Facebook group. With Katalyst, we had the opportunity to start with a clean slate.”

According to Maiolo, the private social network gives the school more control over who is interacting within group discussions, school events pages, etc. because it is only accessible with a Niagara College-specific email address. Maiolo quoted Glen Murray, the school’s Events Logistics Manager who says that “with Facebook, you’re just another tree in the forest but with Katalyst, you are the forest.” 

How did you introduce Niagara College students to CLiK?

Maiolo listed a number of key steps to growing their user base:

  • The Niagara College Registrar’s Office sent out an e-mail invitation to existing students at end of the school year.
  • Maiolo and Chanthilath immediately started friending and interacting with all of the students who signed-up, which was a great way to introduce themselves as part of the NCSAC.
  • They started hosting monthly photo contests to entice students to invite their friends onto the network to vote for their photos.
  • Chanthilath created a series of viral videos, which have already received hundreds of views, to invite more Niagara College students to the network.

Here’s an example of one of the viral videos created by Hagler Chanthilath, Director of Media for the Niagara College Student Administrative Council:

What are your long term goals for growing CLiK?

Maiolo and Chanthilath originally estimated that they’d maybe get 50 students onto CLiK over the summer. To their surprise, they have already managed to get 414 students to sign-up. Their aim is to have 10% of the student body on CLiK by the fall and then grown virally throughout the school year.

“I’m extremely impressed by how the Niagara College SAC has embraced our private social network to connect with their students. Adam and Hagler are using really creative ideas to create awareness. The number of students activating accounts is incredible, especially over the summer months,” says Donnelly. “We plan to share their ideas with the other 125 campuses we are providing Private Networks for this September. They are very talented guys and I’m really happy to be working with them.”

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