WLUSU social network aims to increase student traffic

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In August of 2011, the Wilfrid Laurier Students’ Union (WLUSU) launched its new website, which included a new social network exclusively for students at Wilfrid Laurier University.

WLUSU was able to create the new social network because it came in a package with the new website they purchased.
Kat Lourenco, marketing communications manager at WLUSU, explained they were planning on launching a social network, so this package, “was just a bonus.”

The entire website package cost WLUSU $40,000. This cost, according to Nick Gibson, president and CEO of WLUSU, was less than half of what the former user charged and includes full use of the website, operating costs and the ability to add or remove functions on the website.

So far the website has served as a platform for WLUSU to advertise events and contests, as well as a network for students to engage in information and with each other.

“It’s been really good to kind of have a platform where [WLUSU] can pull all of [its] content into one place,” said Ryan Sweeney, WLUSU’s digital context coordinator. “It’s one central hub where students can go and get all our information at once.”

Many aspects of the site are similar to that of other social networks, such as Facebook. Students can create a profile, upload photos, join groups and discussions.

The main difference between the site and other social networks is that it is exclusively for WLU students.

“It’s a private student network. To be able to gain access to it you need your student e-mail, which kind of gives Laurier students this exclusive hub to exactly what is going on across campus, and it’s a little more legitimate since it’s actually coming from [WLUSU], where in terms of Facebook it can be anyone posting anything,” explained Sweeney.

There are also certain features, such as the Marketplace, that allow students to advertise rooms for rent and sell used textbooks.

However, only 4,000 WLU students are actual members of the site.

According to Sweeney, an average of approximately 600 to 800 users log in online per day, with the majority of these users being first year students.
Lourenco, Sweeney and Gibson all agreed that making the site public has been one of the biggest challenges.

By launching it right before orientation week, many first years became involved, but getting senior students to interact with the site has been challenging.
Gibson also explained that the logistics of the site were challenging during the early stages of its production.

“How you structure [information] on one site can be totally different on another website,” added Gibson. “And I think there are still adjustments to be made.”
Despite these challenges, the site has been more successful than what was anticipated. Lourenco admitted that WLUSU was fully prepared for the site to fail.

“We are pleasantly surprised that … people are using it,” Lourenco said. “We’ve seen far more attention to content that students have uploaded than content that [WLUSU] uploads, so we try to stay away from stuff we’re doing and encourage people to upload their own [content].”

As a result, WLUSU plans on keeping the site in the future, with the hopes that more students will find the site useful.

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