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Class Intercom educates students on business-oriented social media

Taylor Siebert and Ben Pankonin

Ben Pankonin has built a company to help financial institutions securely leverage social media. Taylor Siebert has built a company that supports live-stream video for high schools. They have joined forces to co-found Class Intercom, a secure platform to engage students in telling their school’s story through social media.

“Who writes the school newspaper? Students,” said Pankonin, CEO of Social Assurance and Co-Founder of Class Intercom. “Who writes the school social media content? Teachers and administrators. Why?”

The answer is that school officials are concerned about the perceived risks of engaging students in developing social media content for their school. Class Intercom is changing that perception.

“We’ve seen a change in school culture with this,” said Siebert, CEO of Striv and Co-Founder of Class Intercom. “It’s breaking down the walls of a social media conversation that’s sometimes awkward.”

How did the partnership come about?

“Taylor and I have known each other for awhile through startup community stuff,” Pankonin said. “We discovered that there is a real challenge to giving students exposure to doing social media for something other than themselves. Teachers and administrators saw no real, safe way and it was a non-starter for them.”

Siebert sees the partnership as a logical extension of Stiv’s current offerings.

“It’s a natural fit to help schools engage in empowering students to participate in social media,” he said. “It made a lot of sense from my perspective having been in the ed space for six years.”

Teachers and administrators are given tools to moderate student postings and manage different levels of authorization, easing concerns about inappropriate content.

“You can just hit ‘approve’ or ‘deny’ on a student’s post, and set up different roles for students that can be moderated,” Siebert said. “It’s been fun to see schools grab ahold of this and share their story. Students are adding emojis, it’s really blowing up from a content creation standpoint.”

Pankonin thinks having students engaged with their school’s social media platforms is improving quality and reach.

“The fun part is they know how to engage their friends,” he said. “Their content is a lot more successful.”

There is a significant educational aspect to involving students in managing school social media channels.

“The platform allows teachers to advise in a cross-curricular way,” Pankonin said. “It involves English, Business, Marketing, and helps build a broad range of skills and understanding in how things work online.”

Class Intercom also provides a platform for students to learn digital citizenship.

“Next week is digital citizenship week across the country, and schools are actively engaged in helping students post positive things online,” Siebert said. “They have struggled with how to teach digital citizenship. We’re carving out a niche to do that.”

The joint venture is providing benefits for Social Assurance and Striv.

“As we’ve set up schools for live streaming over the last six years, we tell them they need to be on social media,” Siebert said. “It’s been great to be part of another company that can help take us to the next level.”

For Social Assurance, the joint venture provides business intelligence about how millennials operate online that is important to their customer base. In the long term, it should yield benefits from having students better prepared for business-oriented social media.

“We’re hiring young people coming out of college to advise businesses on how to use social media,” Pankonin said. “They could be learning a lot younger. The job is often the first time they’re exposed to posting something not about themselves.”

Social media giants are taking notice. A recent graduate of Grand Island Northwest was invited to Twitter headquarters to share his school’s social media story.

“It’s been fun to build on our network and relationships in education,” Seibert said. “We’ve got some really engaged schools who have said yes.”

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Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.

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