Friday, July 6, 2012

A Sneek Peek at Planga's Mobile Apps

We know how anxiously you're all awaiting the release of the Planga iPhone and Android apps for your mobile devices.  We're as excited as you are!  Along with doing almost everything you can do from the web version, there are a few awesome features that are mobile-exclusive!  Here's a sneak preview of some of the things you'll be able to do:

1.) See what's happening on the map in real-time.  You'll be able to see all evenings happening right now (or starting really soon) on a map from your mobile device, along with your current location, making it easy to see how close you are to the hot events and how to get there. Just like on web version, icons are sized by popularity or friends attending!

2.) Geolocation and Event Check-Ins.  To coincide with the release of our mobile apps, you'll be able to check-in to events when you arrive!  We have some incredible, never-before-seen geo-centric features coming to our mobile apps, and although we can't share the details just yet, we know you're going to love it!

3.) Access your Calendar & Groups from anywhere.  With the Planga app, you'll have one-touch access to your personal Planga calendar, allowing you to easily pull up your agenda and respond to update your event attendance status on-the-go! Just like on the web version, you have full access to groups, events, and student profiles!

4.) Real-Time Notifications & Reminders.  Your Planga notifications can be fully integrated into your phone's core operations!  You can choose to be reminded about upcoming events on your calendar, and can be notified when events are updated, moved, or canceled.  All other notifications about groups & friends will be included too!

5.) Event Ratings and Discussions on the Go.  You'll be able to rate events you're at, and see the ratings of all ongoing events in real-time.  Is an event out-of-control awesome?  A total bust?  You'll know before you arrive.  You can also discuss future, ongoing, and past events in real-time right from your phone!

We hope you enjoyed this sneak peak.  Please let us know what you think, and if you have any ideas/suggestions for future mobile development.  Your idea just may be useful to students at colleges and universities across the nation!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How Planga Solves the "Stay In Touch" Problem

In the second part of this two-part post, we'd like to share the #2 most voiced problem by students based on our surveys:

"I want to keep in touch with clubs, teams, & groups on campus--and I want it all in one place."

On most campuses, groups rely heavily on university-provided webspace, listserve e-mail blasts, and external services like Google Groups, to keep people informed about their groups.

How Facebook Fails: Facebook has it's own groups system, and now even one that allows you to place a group under a school umbrella.  However, I cannot share events and content with some group members, but not everyone following my group.  Lastly, although I get notified about events my groups host, they are not organized into a schedule or calendar of any kind, forcing students to keep their group events organized themselves.

How Planga Succeeds:  All groups at your school, whether they represent a club, sports team, Greek organization, or academic department, all exist in a single, unified platform.  It's easy to discover new groups or find exactly the group you're looking for to join and follow.  All updates from groups, whether they're new/updated events, or announcements, automatically reach you without any additional effort on behalf of the group.  Furthermore, groups have 2 levels of permissions for members, allow private events and discussions to reach full-fledged members, while keeping them hidden from fans following the group.  Lastly, all events groups host are synced to students personal calendars, so they're always in the loop regarding what's coming up from the groups they follow, without having to do any organization on their own.

Why we still love Facebook: Facebook does a lot of things extremely well.  It's an incredibly powerful platform, has the largest network on the planet, and allows social sharing better than anything else out there. In fact, Planga leverages Facebook heavily for its network, which makes signups incredibly easy, and helps promote groups and events to students outside of the school.  However, for purposes of campus groups and events, Facebook fails to address the two largest concerns students have about extracurriculars on their campus.  Specificity, privacy, and organization are needed to make that happen--and that's where Planga passes in flying colors!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How Planga Solves the "Event Discovery" Problem

Some time ago, we wrote a post describing how Facebook events fail to be effective for college students.    I'd like to expand upon the discussion in a two-part post by sharing the top two most voiced needs by college students in 2012 based on our surveys.  To most college students, it's obvious how Facebook and other social services fail to solve these problems, but to those of us who already graduated, it may not be.  The #1 problem voiced by students about campus events is:

"I want to see everything that's happening on my campus today/tomorrow--and I want to know what's worth going to."

Before Planga, there never was a tool that allowed this to happen.  Crazy, isn't it?  Between e-mail blasts, flyering, chalking, word-of-mouth, and .edu websites, students had some idea of what's going on--but nowhere was it all easily displayed.  '

How Facebook Fails: Facebook events work through friends exclusively, so you can be invited by a friend to an event, or see an event a friends is attending in your news feed or his/her profile.  Facebook's newest events feature recommends "suggested events" based on stuff your friends are doing.  The problem is, most of these events are happening halfway across the country, or just aren't relevant at all.  A good portion of them are, "Come see my band perform," "I lost my phone, send your #s," and "Support me in running my marathon."  Even if Facebook decided to abandon it's school-centric roots, is it too much to ask to just see all real events happening in my geographic area at least?

How Planga Succeeds:  Planga solves the event discovery problem by using a unified groups and events system.  All upcoming events are displayed on a map of campus so that it's incredibly easy to see what's happening.  The map pulls the public events off of every group's calendar, eliminating the needs to even "submit" the events to the map to be displayed.  Furthermore, the event icons are sized by popularity or friends attending, making it extremely easy to pick out the hot events, which events you might be interested in attending, and even which are offering free food.  Planga also has a fully searchable and sortable way to discover new events, allowing students to find exactly what their looking for in seconds--without having to scour profiles, websites, and flyer boards.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Some Interesting Statistics from our New Launches

It has been a busy month for us launching Planga at so many new networks!  Here are some interesting data and statistics from our school  networks, which you might find interesting

Largest School: Brooklyn College: (~17,000 students)
Smallest School: Chestnut Hill College: (~900 students)
Average School Size: (~3,300 students)
Most Popular State:  Pennsylvania (8 schools total, launched & committed)
User Signups1: 53% Women, 47% Men
Usage by Time1: 56% Women, 44% Men
Most Attended Events2: Theatrical Productions, Guest Speakers, Bake Sales, Basketball Games, Spring Break
Most Popular Groups3: SGA, Student Activities Offices, Academic Calendars, Football Teams, Basketball Teams, Drama/Production Troupes
Most Active Groups3: SGA, Varsity Sports Teams, Sororities, Fraternities, Cultural Performance Groups, Racial & Sexual Identity Groups

1.) We were very interested to see that usage by women on Planga is slightly higher than that of men.  This is due in part to Planga being active at one all-women's college, but even excluding Bryn Mawr from our data, women still edge out men in terms of number of users and total time spent on Planga by a very small margin.

2.) The most popular events so far this semester vary by school, but we have noticed some similarities among the networks.  Theatrical and dramatic productions seem to be among the most attended events on Planga, as do guest speakers that come to campus.  Baked goods sales, and events that are advertised as giving away free food, also top the list.  Sporting events, and basketball games in particular, show exceptionally strong attendance so far this semester.

3.) Popularity among groups also varies between schools.  In general, SGA has among the highest attendance counts, and all students generally sync calendars with SGA from the time of signup.  Sports teams and production troupes also have extremely large fan-bases on most campuses.  The most active groups (by posts and group leader actions) are similar, but also include Greek organizations, culture-based performance/arts groups, as well as racial and sexual identity groups.

More interesting data and statistics to come as Planga grows and continues to add new schools!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Thank You for the Wonderful Feedback!

The Planga team is ecstatic to announce that system usage and student feedback from the nine schools that have recently deployed Planga have been absolutely extraordinary.  Students have already been contacting us this semester to let us know that they were able to dramatically improve attendance at their sporting events, get more students to show up to philanthropy events, and to get groups started that previously had too few members to run. We are proud to say that we've played a role in getting students more active on college campuses in just the first few weeks of this Spring semester!  We have several more launches scheduled over the next few weeks, and many more in the pipeline for this semester.  If your school is deploying Planga soon, we hope you're as excited as we are to get started!

As proud as we are, it is important to remember that we only provide the platform.  Planga's success on campus is due to the organizational efforts of student governments, campus life administrators, and campus group leaders of all types.  Thank you for working hard to improve student life on behalf of all students.  We appreciate your wonderful feedback and continued enthusiasm!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Student Government + Planga

Planga makes non-academic life better for students and campus leaders by providing a social, cutting-edge calendar platform.  Students can discover events to attend based on what's popular & what friends are doing, and can easily keep in touch with the clubs, teams, and societies they care about.  Group leaders can easily view their members & fan-bases, sync the group's events directly to interested students' calendars, keep students informed with timely updates, and manage discussion forums about the group and its events.

But there is another party that benefits tremendously from Planga, perhaps above all others, that is often overlooked: Student Government.  Managing campus organizations is no easy task as most schools, which have hundreds of groups across every conceivable type.  I was involved in Student Government at Cornell, and helped to manage some 600 campus organizations.  With the software tools provided to us, doing so was often a complete headache.

Planga makes life a whole lot easier for Student Government by providing the platform that organizes all campus organizations, and all campus events, into a single social system.  It's easy to sort through all campus groups, see who's involved in each, and who has control over each group.  All upcoming events, compiled from group calendars, are also in the system, and keeping tabs on everything is effortless. Maintaining control and in-contact with your campus is dramatically simplified with Planga.

Furthermore, Planga can be set up so that all group leaders are automatically a member of the student government group, which ensure that all Student-Government created events & deadlines automatically sync to group leader calendars, and that all announcements reach them.  Student government is itself a campus group, and all of the benefits to groups apply to them as well, but to an even greater degree.

Student government members can even be given administrative control over their school network, which allows them to create new groups, and easily manage all groups on campus.  Planga requires very little management on the part of student government, but we wanted to give control of the system to those most apt to manage it.

Furthermore, student government and Planga have the same goals: To provide a unified, organized, and enriching non-academic experience for all students.  Planga helps students to get more involved by being more informed about events, more easily following teams and groups, and more easily discovering like-minded students to group with.  I can proudly and confidently say that a campus using Planga to its potential will have happier, healthier, and more involved students, which can lead to improved retention and fewer at-risk student incidents.  I could think of no use of social technologies for a more worthy cause.

Planga provides student government leaders with a completely free, powerful tool that takes the best of every communication channel already on campus; And unlike the archaic extracurricular software schools license, Planga's social focus makes it something students truly want to use and are excited about.  We're looking forward to collaborating with student government leaders this semester.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How Facebook Events Fail

As a campus group leader, spreading the word about your on-campus event is no simple task.  It involves a combination of listserv emails, facebook event creation, flyer postings, chalking, google groups, updating your group website, and sometimes many others.  Of these, it seems that Facebook events have become the status-quo to make as many students as possible aware the event is taking place.  However, as many group leaders have found, Facebook events has three major shortcomings that prevent it from fulfilling its purpose:

1.) Facebook has no events directory.  If you're a student at MIT, how can you let the entire MIT community know an event is happening?  How can interested MIT students find out about your event if they're not close friends with others already going?  Well, you can't.  There's no centralized directory of events happening at MIT, or any other school for that matter.  Even if Facebook events could be tagged & searchable by geography that would be very useful; But they're not.  You just have to hope that one of your friends is attending via Facebook and you catch the News Feed entry.

2.) Event invites are limited to your personal network.   When you create a Facebook event to blast to your friends, you have to manually select every person who may be interested from your friends list, which is tedious and limits your event's reach.  If you're crafty enough to use JavaScript to blast it to ALL of your friends at once, then all your friends NOT at your school will be informed of your new event, and will be annoyed with you from halfway across the country.  The best way to do event invites is using the new-format Facebook Groups, which reaches those students who are part of the group.  However, students have a hard time even finding these groups to join, since they're mixed in with the other 948194891 groups on Facebook, which is why student groups often don't use them.  There just doesn't seem to be a right answer.

3.) Facebook has no calendar system.  Let's say that by sheer chance you do get an invite to an event.  You get a notification (and usually an e-mail) so that you're informed.  But then what?  Sure, you can choose "Yes" and let your friends know you're going, but that's about it.  Facebook has no way of organizing all the events you're going to.   It's entirely up to you to transcribe the event onto your personal calendar, and as we all know, that emails get overlooked or archived more often than not.

Wouldn't it be nice if Facebook had a calendar of all events happening on your campus?  What about a fully sortable, searchable database that ranks events on your campus by how popular they are, how many of your friends are going, or when they're happening?  What if the same were true of campus groups too?  How about automatically keeping your calendar synced with these groups so that you're always informed?

It is for these reasons that Planga was built.  We created a campus-inclusive system that lets students find any and all events happening in their communities, and to effortlessly stay in touch with the groups they care about.  We even went one step further by allowing students to view their friends shared calendars, so that they know where their friends are going at all times.

Planga is what Facebook events should have been.  We have some really groundbreaking features in the works that take these social concepts further than we ever imagined, so stay tuned!