calling all underclassmen

Facebook taps Houston college campus for new tool on its app

Facebook is piloting a new tool at one of Houston's universities. Photo courtesy of Rice University

Facebook launched as a social media platform solely for college students back in 2004. Since then, college students have gradually moved away from Mark Zuckerberg's baby in favor of platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Now, in a bid to once again attract college students, Facebook is returning to its roots with the introduction of a dedicated "college-only space" within the social media app. The social media giant is piloting Facebook Campus at 30 U.S. colleges and universities, including Houston's Rice University.

Harvard University, where Zuckerberg hatched Facebook, isn't among the pilot campuses. The only other Texas school in the pilot group is Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches.

"While Facebook's early days saw it targeting Ivy League schools, the company says these first Facebook Campus schools were selected for diversity's sake. That is, diversity of the student population, diversity of geography, and diversity of school specialties (like liberal arts). They also represent a mix of public and private schools," the TechCrunch news website reports.

Facebook says a student's profile in the Campus section will differ from a student's profile on the main Facebook site. To create a Campus profile, a student must provide their college email address and graduation year. A student has the option to add information like major, courses, and hometown.

"Your name, profile photo, cover photo, and hometown from your Facebook profile will be added to your Campus profile, but you can edit or remove your hometown from your Campus profile if you'd like," Facebook tells prospective users.

Once a Campus profile is set up, a user can explore groups and events specific to their school, and connect with classmates who share similar interests. Only people on the Campus platform can view content posted there.

Features of Facebook Campus include:

  • Campus-specific news feed where students can read updates about classmates, groups, and events. They also can establish study groups, plan virtual concerts, or seek advice.
  • Directory of classmates at each campus. "Like in the early days when Facebook was a college-only network, students can find classmates by class, major, year, and more," Facebook says.
  • Real-time chat rooms for dorms and campus groups.

"This year, students across the country are facing new challenges as some campuses shift to partial or full-time remote learning, so it's more important than ever to find a way to stay connected to college life," Facebook says in a post about Facebook Campus. "College is a time for making new friends, finding people who share similar interests and discovering new opportunities to connect — from clubs to study groups, sports, and more."

With the Campus feature, Facebook hopes to lure younger users back to the platform in a setting where their parents and grandparents can't spy on them.

In the fall of 2019, U.S. teens named Snapchat as their favorite social media app (44 percent), followed by Instagram (35 percent) and TikTok (4 percent), according to Statista. Just 3 percent of teens cited Facebook as their favorite social media app.

By comparison, 42 percent of teens rated Facebook as their favorite social media network in 2012, followed by Twitter (27 percent) and Instagram (12 percent). Snapchat and TikTok had not yet been created.

"Most of us have [Facebook], we just never use it," one teen told CNBC last year. "It's not our thing."

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Building Houston

 
 

After working with thousands of interns, Allie Danziger of Ampersand Professionals says she's now got a product to upskill and train new hires for employers. Photo courtesy of Ampersand

After seeing success with her internship training and matchmaking platform, Allie Danziger, founder and CEO of Ampersand Professionals, has expanded the concept to include a new hire training service that allows employers to better optimize the onboarding process and have a well-trained new staff member from day one.

In just over a year, Ampersand has worked with over 7,000 professionals through its original concept of upskilling and matching young professionals to internship programs. A few months ago, Danziger and her team expanded to include career development training for students first entering the workforce with the City of Houston's Hire Houston Youth program. Danziger says it was developing out the platform for this program that proved there was a need for this type of training.

"While we have focused on matching professionals with businesses for paid internships, we recognized a further gap with employers that have their own recruiting/talent acquisition teams, or just their own preferred way of bringing on entry-level talent, and didn’t have a need for our matching platform," Danziger tells InnovationMap. "But, they recognized the benefit of our proven training platform that pre-vets and de-risks their hires, and still wanted access to the training for their own hires."

The new program has evolved from training interns to new hires, so parts of the program that focuses on interviewing or applying for a job have been removed. Instead, the 8.5 hours of training focuses on networking, best practices for working with a manager and team, performance reviews, common software training, and more.

Danziger says usually new hires need the most experienced mentor or manager, but they don't usually get that support — especially when it comes to businesses that don't have their own built-out mentorship or training program.

"Ampersand’s new training product fills that gap — it gives employers of any size any easy solution to provide basic job readiness training to employees, access to our team of dedicated coaches, and a detailed report at the end of their training summarizing how their new hire did in the training and any trends recognized and tips for managing this employee based on what the platform uncovered," she says. "Businesses can also sign up for additional coaching sessions and customize training materials, as an add-on if interested."

The program costs the employer $100 per new employee, and checkout online takes less than a minute. Through both this program and the original internship program, Ampersand is constantly evolving its training content.

"These professionals are going through the same training experience that we have proven out over the last year, and we are constantly adding to based on data we see in the user experience," Danziger says.

Danziger recently joined the Houston Innovators Podcast discuss some of the benchmarks she's met with Ampersand, as well as the importance of investing in Gen Z hires. Listen to that episode below.


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