EBW: When did Social Assurity launch and why?
NBS: We launched exactly 4 years ago, August 2013. From the outset, we felt that there was a real need to focus on the positive aspects of having a digital presence rather than its dangers. We wanted to teach students how they can utilize social media to proactively influence their college and career prospects.
The perception at the time was that it is smart for a student to completely shut down social media (or use it under an alias) when applying to college, to hide any youthful follies.
Alan Katzman, our founder, and CEO, was inspired by his experiences as a hiring executive who always googled his candidates and wanted to learn more about them online (if someone didn’t have a digital presence, the question was “what are they hiding?”), and he was also inspired by his daughter’s success in receiving an internship offer from Sony as a result of someone stumbling on her blogging about classic rock. “They sent my daughter an email offering her a great internship opportunity that she never applied for, but gladly accepted.” He decided to share the message: the many benefits of building a discoverable and reflective social media presence for college and career opportunities needed to come into focus.
EBW: What are Social Assurity’s main goals and projects?
NBS: In the first couple of years our organization spent considerable time in delivering our message, that social media can be a positive, powerful tool for young people. We now work with students, schools, college advisors and parents of different backgrounds to teach them how social media and digital presence can influence a student’s prospects when it comes to college and scholarships and later as a tool for career and other life opportunities. Our expertise is teaching students how to create a compelling, authentic digital presence. It helps them distinguish themselves and tell their story: their diversity, personal successes and challenges, their unique interests and talents, and it helps them stand out in a competitive academic environment. We have a suite of informative and fun eCourses that students take online. We also run workshops, and we sometimes work individually with families to help their kids build a great digital presence.
“35% of college admissions decision-makers now rely on social media to help choose among today’s historically overcrowded field of applicants. That number leaps to nearly 100% when students invite a college to view their social media!”
EBW: What makes your Social Assurity stand out or what is the most unique thing about Social Assurity?
NBS: We deliver high level and in-depth information. We don’t just skim the surface with advice like “be nice and polite online” but we really explain to students everything there is to know about how best to authentically and thoughtfully present themselves for and network with colleges.
We offer user-friendly and well-designed eCourses that are always updated to be current. Our courses were created by using students’ feedback on how they like to learn. The courses are interactive, use a lot of audio-visual modules, and engaging. The 9 Modules of our Digital Leadership™ Certification will serve students beyond college and throughout their professional life.
We are also unique in the pro-bono work we do with students from low-income families through the YES Scholars organization. We believe the internet is the great equalizer and we like to help underprivileged students reach their full potential.
EBW: What are recent projects or new resources that Social Assurity would like to share with NAMLE members?
NBS: We offer the first-of-its-kind comprehensive guide to the Coalition College Application, an entirely new college application platform that provides a single, centralized online toolkit designed for students to organize, build, and refine their application online over a few years leading to college. It’s a revolutionary application platform in the sense that it encourages students to use media, build digital portfolios, and share their community work online – and we developed the first-ever guide on how to use it. We offer it for free on our website.
EBW: What are the connections between the work of your organization and media literacy? Why is media literacy important to you?
NBS: Our courses and workshops teach students that nothing online is ever private, nor guaranteed to be deleted. We teach why a positive digital presence and the proactive use of social media are increasingly important for everything in life. We teach how to best utilize each of the social media platforms, how to network online, and how social recruiting works. This pragmatic and practical information is an important tool for life. We are committed to helping students realize that social media is not only a peer-to-peer platform but is completely public and discoverable. It can be used to advance their goals. This is a topic that most students don’t perceive intuitively. Teaching them how to approach social media and harness its powers can have enormous benefits for young people.