The University of Michigan’s social media scene has no shortage of social forums. From YikYak to Reddit, these platforms have provided students an anonymous way to express their opinion on everything from mental health to philanthropic rushing. This fall, U-M alum Ish Baid launched Peervine, a new kind of social network intended to help enhance the student experience and student-to-student communication.
Baid launched Peervine Oct. 19, hoping to give students a private community to ask questions and get recommendations on classes, housing, study spots and anything else related to campus life in Ann Arbor. Baid said he created Peervine to give students access to a network of peers to promote their success.
“So much of my success, whether it was being an IA (Instructor’s Assistant), landing my full-time job or raising millions in capital has come from my peer network, but not everybody has this network,” Baid said. “There’s so much tribal knowledge that makes students successful on campus, but it’s trapped in the minds of a select few, and it’s never passed down, leaving the younger generation to just reinvent the wheel and lose precious time in the process.”
When creating Peervine, Baid and his team found that while the University offers students a plethora of resources, students are not aware of many of them. Baid said he wanted to create Peervine to inform students about these resources so they do not have to slowly learn about them from each other.
“At Michigan, students have amazing resources available to them,” Baid said. “But the problem is most people just don’t know about them; they just don’t know that they exist, and the way they find out about them is that they just happen to hear about it from a friend. So much about Peervine is, ‘What if we could extend that network? And what if we could curate the best resources for you, or at least have your peers do that for you?’”
Ava Walker, Rackham student and campus marketing and growth intern for Peervine, said her experience as both an undergraduate and graduate student have helped her realize how much there is to know about the University.
“Being a grad student and having so many years on campus in various student jobs in different offices, I have been able to share what students experience to help direct where the app needs to go to better meet students’ needs,” Walker said.
Unlike some other platforms, Peervine is not anonymous: the user’s name is tied to their comment or answer. Baid said this was an intentional decision by the creators in order to avoid some of the issues other platforms with anonymity face.
“The platforms that are anonymous like Reddit in the UK tend to have a lot of bullying and hate speech or just content that is just genuinely not useful … We made this intentional decision to have people use their real names because something about having your real identity makes you kind of aware of how you interact in public,” Baid said. “I think reputation matters a lot, and so you can’t just be openly criticizing people without being aware of repercussions.”
Mrinalini Lyer, LSA senior and marketing intern for Peervine, said being a current student at the University helps her understand what students need from Peervine.
“I know the struggles of being a Michigan student … with this campus being so big, a lot of your information comes from your clubs and things,” Iyer said. “There’s not really a centralized database where you can interact with students that may not be … within your circles, and that’s one of the problems that Peervine was trying to address,”
Along with providing a new pathway for information, Walker said Peervine uses Venmo to directly pay some students when they frequently answer questions on the platform.
“Right now on-campus, it is mainly GroupMes and word of mouth that helps students get the information they need, which is cumbersome and (makes it) hard to find all your answers,” Walker said. “The bonus (of Peervine) is not only does it help students connect with each other, but you get paid if you are a top contributor. There is a $1,000 pool of money each week, and everyday people win!”
After the COVID-19 pandemic, Baid said he believes many students felt isolated and disconnected from the campus community. Baid said he hopes Peervine can aid students in re-engaging and connecting with one another. He added that he has already seen community engagement increase on the platform since the launch.
“I think right now we’re seeing the COVID generation, who have definitely felt fragmented and isolated, and for the first time, they can actually connect with their peers,” Baid said. “We’re having discussions from people recommending places they can take their parents out for dinner, (to) good weekend study spots on North Campus, all the way to … ideas for dates on campus.”
In an effort to raise awareness for the platform, Baid said the Peervine team has been placing chairs around campus during the night for students to find the next day.
“Our team actually went around Tuesday between the hours of 12 a.m. and 5 a.m., and we put out lawn chairs with Peervine logos on them, and … hundreds of students woke up around campus to find these launchers absolutely everywhere,” Baid said. “So it was kind of our attempt at doing a PR stunt.”
Two days after the launch of the platform, there were almost 500 users on the platform with multiple posts a day. Baid said engagement has been good so far, and he hopes it will continue to grow.
“So far the reception has been really good, and we’ll see how it unfolds throughout the semester, but I think the big milestone for us right now is that it is just desktop, but we’ll be launching a mobile app in just a couple of weeks,” Baid said. “I think that’s going to be a big incentive for people to engage even further.”
Future expansion plans will offer users a base for a variety of recommendations that blend data and student opinion, Baid said.
“Very soon it’s going to start to feel more like this Yelp-like experience … with Peervine you’re going to be able to open it up, and you’re gonna be able to see reviews for every possible class that you could take on Michigan’s campus,” Baid said. “You’ll start to see reviews for housing, which apartment buildings to live in. We want to blend this social network and knowledge base together in one place.”
Walker said Peervine will improve the lives of all students well into the future, and many new improvements to the platform are coming to enhance that experience.
“I think the future for Peervine at the moment is to get 99.9% of the student body on and communicating resources, tips and tricks, and fun things going on in Ann Arbor,” Walker said. “We really see the value in human connection and providing students a safe, verified Michigan student space. The future for Peervine is bright, and we plan to roll out some new additions to the app in a week.”
Daily News Reporter Emma Moore can be reached at email@example.com