Wednesday, August 20, 2008

IABC Q&A: Is 'Anon' more responsible?

Another question captured at my recent IABC Washington talk on new media concerned blogs and comments: I noted that even the U.S. government allows anonymous comments on most of its blogs, having recently completed a survey of federal blogs for a government client. In this talk, it was mentioned as part of the approach I call "following the audience" -- many readers want to contribute, but not by name. That raised this question from an audience member:

Your situation may vary, but in this case, the questioner noted that the promise of "no anonymous comments" helps to make the case for a blog with leadership in companies and organizations--the idea being that demanding the responsibility of an identity will promise responsible comments. In reality, that's hard to guarantee. A few points to consider:
  • Don't fool yourself: Anyone can create a login and "identity" with which to comment on your blog posts--and they will, if they don't want to be identified. So much for those best-laid plans...
  • How does that help your image? Is your company or organization really open to comments? Are you more concerned about the source than the content of the comment? An anti-anonymous-comments policy may speak volumes.
  • Moderate, don't obliterate: Most blogging platforms allow comments moderation, which allows you to view and approve comments before they appear. If that solves the issue of comment content, use this approach, and approve both anonymous and named comments. You'll get the benefits of an open approach and the control you seek.
Underlying this question is a common barrier to corporate blogs: The assertion that comments will get out of control. In reality, the blogging community looks upon itself as a self-policing body. Over-the-top and erroneous posts are challenged publicly--a practice that lets you do the same for your organization. Another best practice: Articulate what you will and won't publish in a public comments policy, so commenters know you won't publish off-topic, off-color or other matter. Offer moderation of comments in lieu of an anti-anonymous policy, and your company's image and outreach will benefit. Go here to see my e-handout from this IABC session, loaded with examples of corporate blogs--and check out their policies. You'll note this comment on the issue of anonymity:
...the employees/end users, who have a lot to gain from the inherent collaborative opportunies of social media in the workplace, may abstain entirely if they feel they will be too visible across the organization.
Now that's what I call starting where the audience is! (Thanks to Emily Deck for capturing this on video.)

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