King’s student-led project Society App gains popularity within the university and across the globe. Co-founder Matthew Billington shares more about the inspiration behind the app, its development, benefits for students and its success on a national and international level.
Matthew is a fifth year Dental student with a lot of experience with societies: from being a member to leading them, he has taken on various roles. This allowed him to look closely at the ways societies operate and made him think whether the usual utilisation of social media platforms is still as efficient as it used to be. As the President of KCL’s Dental Society, he mentioned a decrease in Freshers’s use of what many would consider “traditional social media” like Facebook and a lack of interest in emails. With many societies relying on those and similar means of communication, the decreased interest in Facebook pages and events impedes societies’ activities and negatively impacts events’ attendance rates. Matthew wanted to change that:
“When I was getting involved and realising how we run things, I decided to take a step back and just look at things. I looked at online shopping at Tesco, Amazon and Ebay, and I realised how automated these things were. Then I looked up at how Student Unions and our societies are built. I was thinking why do we conform to everything that’s given to us: Facebook for this benefit, Twitter- for that, Instagram- for that, etc. Why were we using all these platforms that were not created for our purposes? We were running things on what was given to us by the outside world, but nothing had been created specifically for societies. I found our ways were old-fashioned and too conventional. This was a problem. It was time to do something for my society.”
After some research and huge group efforts, KCL’s Dental Society found developers and other people who were willing to help, and the Society App was designed and launched.
The Society App
The Society App brings everything together at one place. It serves as a platform, designated only for societies from a specific university. Everyone can join using their university’s email address, which will automatically redirect them to their university’s “Safe Space”. All societies can post links to their events, which all students can sign up to. After indicating their interest, the event is added to the student’s calendar, sending them notifications prior to the event. There is also a manual “Reminder button”, which the societies’ admins can use to manually send out reminders. Admins also have access to detailed insights, such as how many students have engaged, number of clicks, number of attendees and other similar statistics that help monitoring events and posts’ success.
An option for ticket booking is also embedded within the app. It automatically redirects the user to the SU website, while still appearing as you have not left the app. Admins also have the option of linking those to other pages, similar to Eventbrite.
The app serves a chat platform as well, as it allows the user to direct message anyone. Meanwhile, all societies have a full list of their committee members on their page, which facilitates communication and helps students, especially Freshers, to navigate around. There is also the option of a “group chat” for all members within a society.
Another feature of the app is the existence of a portfolio. After each event, the admins can send out feedback forms. Upon completing those, the student receives a certificate that they have attended the specific event. This is stored in a portfolio that can later be included in CVs, proving the student’s engagement with societies, events, talks and other activities.
Learn more and find demos here.
The App’s Success
The app was officially created solely for the use of KCL’s Dental Society in the end of 2019. However, after strong interest from the Medical society, Matthew and his society decided to officially launch it for national and international use in January 2020. Ever since then, the app’s society has become popular in more than 100 universities across the UK with having more than 500 societies registered. Matthew also shares there is international interest as well, and gives examples of the Poland and Sydney’s Dental schools. He further explains this is great news, as many societies have appointed reps across universities, which allows for an event at a particular university to become accessible to students from other universities as well.
Despite gaining popularity across many universities, the Society App is not yet that well-known within King’s with only around 20 KCL societies using it. However, these numbers are growing, and Matthew shares he has high hopes for the further development and potential collaboration with the KCLSU. He reaches out to them and to societies’ Presidents:
“It has completely been driven by societies and student unions and what they want, because I personally feel like we’ve been left behind for far too long. And it’s been years of us doing the same conventional ways of working, and I feel like this brings it all together with everyone engaging with it. I’ve got a passion for this app, and it’s been an amazing journey building it and all those connections. If anyone wants to get involved or share their ideas, everyone can get in touch with me about that. I would love for KCLSU to have a chat with me, I’d love to share it with them and other societies and SUs as well. It’s just spreading the positivity of the app and benefiting students because we deserve it at the end of the day.”