— Rex St John (@rexstjohn) February 8, 2015
I attend many collegiate hackathons as part of my job at Intel. I also frequently document the interesting projects that are produced and teams that I meet along the way. As a result, I often ask developers for their social media contact information so I can tag them in my posts.
This habit has resulted in a sort of “informal” demographic survey of college student hacker’s social media activities. Here are my non-scientific findings:
- The majority of college hackers I meet don’t have a Twitter and seem to have no idea why they would ever want one
- Many of the college hackers I meet don’t have a LinkedIn account and only plan on creating one as part of their overall job application process later in the year
Lets dig deeper…
Red Flag Alert: Students view LinkedIn as something they “need to get around to doing eventually” and only because they are being forced to do so.
Thats all fine and good, but lets combine this information with some of my other observations about college hackathons in general:
- Students often attend numerous hackathons across the country prior to graduating (many hackathons now provide travel reimbursements to attendees)
- Students often post their projects on sites like Hacker League (owned by Intel), which act as a sort of informal “LinkedIn for hackers”
- Hackathons are an environment in which viral effects are very powerful – one student may meet thousands of other students across the country and spread the word about products they enjoy along the way
If you are reading these bullet points and your brain is replaying the genesis story of Facebook and SnapChat (social networks who strongly benefitted from the network effects present on college campuses), you are not alone. Hackathons are a potent new way for social networks and products to spread…
LinkedIn Beware! Possibly Facebook too…
Most of the students attending hackathons are studying some form of engineering or user interface design. It is no secret that students in these occupations are some of the most sought-after candidates by numerous companies. Advertisers, “platform companies” and recruiters are lining up around the block to appeal to these students and several major hackathons now command hundreds of thousands of dollars in total sponsorship dollars.
It isn’t a stretch to think that convincing student hackers to assemble into a new form of social network around their hackathon activities would be extremely valuable.
- What will happen if students decide that they don’t really need to “Get around” to creating a LinkedIn anymore?
- What if these students realize that their college hackathon portfolio site of choice is the only professional (and possibly even social) network they will ever need?
- What would happen if students where to decide that their “hackathon social network” of choice makes a lot more sense than Twitter?
If I were LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter I would be thinking carefully about questions like these.