Posted by Jordan on Jan 16, 2011 in .edu, admissions, alumni, branding, communications, Content strategy, education, Opinion, social media, web site feature | No Comments
I am sitting in a room surrounded by 30 people. Each person has a knife in his/her hand. Should I worry? No.
Although this scenario might sound like I am an extra in a James Bond movie, I am actually just eating at a restaurant. Truth is, although knives are scary, most people wielding them aren’t going to stab you. I like to think of comments on a website in the same respect.
Opening up your website to comments can be scary, much like a room full of people wielding knives. However, when you think about it, most people aren’t going to stab you. Most will use the knife to cut their steak. In the same vein, most people commenting, aren’t going to spread hate.
Of course, some people are crazy and unbalanced. Some people will metaphorically knife you, but fortunately, there are consequences and those people tend to meet justice. Moderators can ban and prune comments so the odd crazy isn’t a mainstay.
In the right context, a room full of people with knives doesn’t scare me, and likewise, in the right context, a website with open comments isn’t frightening.
At this point, few .EDUs embrace open commenting. The one place someone will see a dialog via comments is on the school’s Facebook page. But what if schools opened up more channels for comments? What if we gave people knives?
As I see it, there are two scenarios.
1.) People stab you
2.) People use the knife to enhance their experience.
For the sake of entertainment, let’s say people adopt the latter.
So your school has allowed people to comment on selected pages of your official website. Now what?
Now people tell you about their experience and how it relates to the news item you have posted.
Now people post questions when they cannot find what they are looking for and you can post help.
Now people can contribute to the discussion–sharing their experience with your tour.
Now people can draw your attention to stories your communications team never considered.
Now that random crazy says your school sucks #@!!$, and you moderate but leave a record so you don’t seem like you are fan of censorship.
Now you send the signal that your school cares about feedback, sharing, democracy.
Now you have social interactions on your terms, not Facebook’s.
Now you are able to better serve your audience.
Now you are not like every other site.