“Wikipedia is the most important home for content online. It’s critical to understand what’s being said about your brand there,” says Don Steele, Senior Director Digital Marketing, Comedy Central.
Steele’s not alone in his assessment. Wikipedia is the ninth most popular Web site in the world, according to Alexa traffic rankings, with more than 111,000 sites linking to the online encyclopedia. This makes the site a huge draw to marketers looking for brand exposure, but it also requires a different communications approach. The process is complicated. According to Wikipedia's own estimates, of the 8.2 million articles on the site, only 525 are about companies.
Working with Wikipedia means partaking in the site’s efforts to be a source of non-biased, balanced and factual information based on collaborative articles -- not a PR channel where a company can control the conversation.
If you’re a marketer hoping to get your company included in Wikipedia, or already have articles about your brands, you need to engage with the community carefully. To that end, we’ve assembled tips on how to work with Wikipedia and get an article created and monitor pages about your company. We also have direct links to the most important Wikipedia policies and guidelines to help you join the phenomenon without crossing the line into spin or spam.
In Part II of our Special Report next week, we'll tell you the right way to edit your entry and get errors about your company changed so you don't end up being added to the shame list.Getting Your Company’s Wikipedia Entry Created
Getting a Wikipedia article created about your brand is a tricky process, and how to do it properly remains a gray area. First, you must determine if your company meets the criteria for an article -- notability. Wikipedia defines notability based on a company’s substantial coverage in reliable secondary sources (see hotlinks below for details).
If you think you meet the notability requirements, there are a few approaches to getting an article created. Note that there’s no *right way* to do this. We received differing opinions in our interviews with marketers, PR reps and online community experts. “I opened up seven different Skype windows with contacts in the industry to ask the right way to create a Wikipedia entry, and I got seven different answers,” says Jake McKee, Founder of the social media consultancy Ant’s Eye View.
Consider the following approaches carefully and decide which one you’re most comfortable with:
-> Option #1. Create your own “Stub” article
Stub articles are brief entries on a subject designed to be filled out by the community. They generally contain a few sentences of factual information along with some context about the subject.
Some marketers say that creating a stub article on behalf of your company is OK, as long as you limit the content to purely factual information that’s verified by outside sources. Don’t resort to typical marketing language or try puff up your accomplishments with phrases called “peacock terms.”
However, others have reported that their article stubs were quickly deleted by editors even if they appeared factual because they came from someone connected with the company and violated Wikipedia’s Conflict of Interest policy (see hotlink below).
-> Option #2. Propose an article for creation
Wikipedia’s Conflict of Interest policy strongly discourages people from contributing to articles on subjects they’re personally connected to. Rather than risk violating that policy and being labeled a spammer, companies can propose that the Wikipedia community create an entry about them. Here are tips on how to do that:
- Post a request for an article on an appropriate, related discussion page for an article about your industry (all Wikipedia articles have discussion or “talk” pages, organized under the discussion tab at the top of the main article, where editors and contributors can debate article edits). Or, you can post a request on the site’s Articles for Creation section.
- Prepare a brief, neutral, fact-based summary that highlights the key points of your proposed article and provide the necessary supporting documentation and independent sources of information that verify those statements.
- Disclose your relationship to the company when making the request.
-> Option #3. Have a member of your community create an article
If you’re active in other social media efforts and have an established community of users and customers, reach out to that group and ask if someone is willing to create an entry about your company.
- Make sure the member is knowledgeable about your company as well as your industry and can provide the right mix of facts, context and tone that makes an article a neutral, informative entry.
- Encourage them to follow Wikipedia’s community standards and guidelines and not to write an overly positive article.
- Don’t pay people or offer gifts in exchange for writing an article. This will call the writer’s neutrality into question and will target the article for deletion.Monitoring Your Wikipedia Entry
The best way to interact with Wikipedia is to become a community member. Only registered users can create or edit entries and participate in the site’s discussion pages.
-> Tip #1. Appoint a Wikipedia ambassador
- Designate one person in your company as the “Wikipedia ambassador,” charged with monitoring entries and being the primary contact for all interaction with the community. Don’t let anyone else from your company tinker with your Wikipedia pages.
Having one person dedicated to the job makes it easier to learn the ins and outs of Wikipedia’s technology and community standards. It also minimizes the chance for sloppy edits or breeches of protocol that can tarnish your reputation.
- Choose a Wikipedia editor based on their knowledge of your company and experience communicating with outsiders. Candidates include:
o A communications or marketing executive
o A company archivist
o A point person for wider social media efforts
-> Tip #2. Be active in the community
Your Wikipedia ambassador should become a regular participant in community discussions and activities. Someone who swoops in only to try to enact changes that the community might feel are biased toward your company is the wrong way to go. Some tips on becoming a member in good standing:
- Learn the policies and guidelines. Spend time exploring the site to understand the tone and writing style of Wikipedia entries. Pay close attention to key policies, such as maintaining a neutral point of view and avoiding conflicts of interest (see hotlinks below). Wikipedia pages are not your company’s property and can’t be treated as marketing materials that reflect only the facts, statistics and points of view that you want to present.
“If you look at company listings on Wikipedia, they’re like a collective brand definition. In some cases, that’s going to be beneficial to the company and illustrate facts and a point of view you’re happy with. In other cases, it’s not going to illustrate facts or a point of view you’re happy with,” says Matthew Greitzer, VP Search, Avenue A/Razorfish.
- Be helpful. Volunteering to help editors track down information, citations, useful links and other relevant content will help the community do its job. If new or updated information becomes available that you feel could strengthen an entry, let the community know what’s available.
- Be transparent. Don’t choose a random or anonymous user name. Register clearly as an employee of your company and let the community know that you are the person in charge of the company’s Wikipedia outreach efforts. Make your contact information readily available for smooth communication.
-> Tip #3. Monitor existing Wikipedia pages about your brand
Have your Wikipedia ambassador regularly monitor all pages related to your company. Ideally, they should check those articles daily to stay on top of changes, proposed edits or controversies arising in the article’s discussion section.
There are two easy ways to keep track of changes:
- Add pages to your watchlist. A checkbox on Wikipedia pages allows you to add articles and their corresponding discussion pages to a watchlist. Then, each time you log in to Wikipedia, you can view your watchlist and see all recent changes to those pages.
- Subscribe to the RSS feed of your Wikipedia pages. A feature in the Toolbox section on the left margin of a page’s History tab allows you to subscribe to the RSS or Atom feed that will update you whenever a change is made to the page. Next week: Wikipedia and damage control: How to get additions or changes made to articles if you notice errors and how not to end up on the list of shame. Useful links related to this article
Creative samples from Wikipedia:
Wikipedia’s Business FAQ:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Business'_FAQ
Wikipedia’s Conflict of Interest policy explained:
Wikipedia’s Neutral Point of View policy explained:
Wikipedia’s guidelines for avoiding “peacock terms”:
Wikipedia’s notability requirements for organizations and companies:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Notability_%28organizations_and_companies%29
Requesting an article on Wikipedia:
Ant’s Eye View: