Monitoring your Web Identities

Live from HighEdWebDev

Josh Tysiachney from Allegheny College

Jay Collier from Bates College provided an informative session on why it is important for higher ed web professionals to be aware of what’s being said online about their institutions (and who is saying it).

With the rise of the social web, educational institutions no longer have complete control over their online identity. In fact, institutions likely have multiple identities on the web because so many different users are generating content on external sites like Wikipedia and YouTube. And, those external sites are often the first place individuals will look when they want to learn more about a college or university.

Jay suggested using RSS feeds to stay on top of how others are portraying an institution. 

Jay walked through the steps of using online feed readers such as Google Reader and Bloglines to monitor content such as:

  • Mainstream news sources (using Google News, Yahoo News)
  • Community and personal blogs (using Google Blog Search, Technorati, Bloglines)
  • Wikipedia revisions and discussion
  • Web pages without RSS feeds (using scrapers liked dapper and Ponyfish)
  • Jay noted that, once the feeds are being monitored, it’s a good idea to share them with colleagues.
  • Bloglines allows users to mark particular feeds as “public” and then share those feeds with others via a public URL. Colleagues can also download a feedlist and import it into their own Bloglines accounts.

But managing an online identity is about more than just monitoring what others are saying.

Jay advised institutions to embrace the social web and create their own feeds as a way to share knowledge with the world. Doing so provides institutions with an opportunity to:

  • Balance what external sites are saying with the institution’s perspective
  • Promote the achievements of faculty and staff and increase their visibility
  • Share campus stories with targeted audiences (both internal and external)

Jay said he spends about an hour each day monitoring his institution’s identity. He made a compelling case that it’s time well spent.