There has been an ongoing discussion in the international education field on how to handle the rogue, or simply unhappy, student who spouts off on his her blog/facebook/orkut/renren/twitter page about how upset they are with their educational institution.
The question educators always have is: how to handle negative publicity about your institution on social media sites?
The first response is always: just make it disappear.
“If we pretend as if it never happened no one will ever know, right?”
In fact, deleting a negative comment or taking down a flagrant post written by an upset student is the last thing you want to do.
It is difficult to watch it sit there and essentially gather more negative publicity but one of the main concepts behind the draw of social media is people feel they can share their opinions. In turn, friends value those opinions and trust their contacts’ views, which help them create impressions and perspective on topics they know less about. Taking a student’s post down essentially takes their voice away, violating their free speech and will only serve to make them more upset.
Having sat through numerous discussions on this topic the answer that always wins is to approach the student in the online space where the comment was created and begin an open, public dialogue. As difficult as it may be, publicly apologize for the mistake and explain how you can improve the students’ situation.
Be clear, concise and detailed.
Avoid placing blame or forging a personal attack. Remember, the customer (your student) is always right, even when they aren’t. Reaching out into their space and showing you are willing to right the situation will go a long way for the student, and their 374 friends, in addition to other outside users who may read the post.
In essence, nothing is perfect all of the time. If you make real life situations disappear eventually the institution seems un-credible because nothing ever goes wrong.
More realistic is having your ear to the ground, reading the social media produced by your students and engaging with them in their space. By responding to the post in a rational manner offering solutions you are creating a positive image of your institution.
This will go a long way when the students and their friends see the public response and realize how far the institution is willing to go to make their students happy.