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Feb 5

BETT 2014 Guest Review - Tes Macpherson, founder of Plan Social

By Edward Baker Tagged: BETT 2014

Tes Macpherson, founder of Plan Social, tells us how talking to parents and schools early-on helped to evolve their social networking app for school parents.
BETT you can guess where we’ve been…
Last week the Plan Social team was at the biggest education technology conference in the UK. BETT2014 was teeming with 40,000 school teachers, school children and suppliers offering the latest technologies finding their way into classrooms across the globe. 
Through Edmix, we had the opportunity to grab a stand on the Edtech Pavilion, with other edtech companies, raising our profiles with schools and demo-ing our wares.
It was a great opportunity meet face to face with existing or potential customers from all over the world, show off our products, get direct feedback and gain further customer insights. 
Ear to the ground
I was encouraged to hear schools are starting to appreciate the wider benefits of parental engagement, and I enjoyed seeing the penny drop when I explained how Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) can often be an effective route to parental involvement. Our app, PTAsocial, is a private social network with a built-in volunteer organiser tool. It’s specifically designed to tailor communications for parents so they are relevant, personalised and interactive.
How to make a product they care about (aka #CustDev)
Our game plan has been to focus on building something truly useful for the PTAs, a step-change from the next best alternative (email, paper, even Doodle or Facebook!). We interviewed PTAs and ran pilots throughout last year to make sure we were targeting their needs, and rapidly iterated the product in response to feedback. Although avid fans of #LeanStartup, it’s challenging in practice! However, the overall impact has been dramatic. The app is now intuitive, sociable and inclusive, avoiding the perception of dreaded “cliques”. At the same time, it’s self-contained and private, allaying e-safety concerns.  PTAsocial has been changing how people view or approach volunteering, and connect with other school parents.
Helping schools avoid the tumbleweed scenario!
We realised that schools often have difficulty getting parents to log on to their communication portals.  What use is a parental engagement facility without an audience? You have to go to where the parents are if you want to engage them! Now that they are flocking to PTAsocial for their daily or weekly update on school PTA news or parent chit-chat, it provides the ideal platform from which schools engage them. So we are now working with a number of innovative schools to take parental engagement to the next level with our latest product in development, SchoolSocial. We still have some places left on our Pioneering Schools programme, so are keen to hear from any interested schools. Or if your company's target audience is school parents, come and talk to us too! Ongoing Customer Development is vital to ensure relevance.
Multiple benefits
So being an exhibitor at BETT was useful to create brand awareness, meet customers and learn from “pioneers”. Furthermore we had fruitful conversations with other start-ups, sharing lessons learned and marketing tips. We were also approached by potential partners and resellers in the EdTech space, so BETT2014 also turned out to be a great launchpad for new collaborative ventures. Looking forward to what the year will bring! See you all next year….
Find out more about PTAsocial & SchoolSocial at:
Screenshot from PTAsocial app:

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