September 11, 2007
So, your company has an entry in Wikipedia. Congratulations, you're in the social elite. Now the real work begins: tracking what gets added. Errors can crop up at any time because just about anyone can edit a Wikipedia article.
What happens if someone adds factually incorrect information? Go fix it yourself, right? No. You may wind up with egg on your face and blasted by bloggers saying you've sugarcoated your entry. We've compiled a list of best practices for the proper approach. Plus, using Wikipedia to get links added back to your site.
If you are a marketer hoping to get your company included in Wikipedia, or if the online encyclopedia already holds articles about your brands, you need to engage with the community carefully.
The unveiling last month of the WikiScanner -- a tool that lets anyone see who is editing Wikipedia entries -- uncovered a raft of changes by companies and organizations attempting to delete unpleasant episodes from their histories, whitewash controversies about their products or make the tone of articles more favorable.
The online blowback was swift and widespread. Bloggers trumpeted egregious examples and created resources, such as Wired’s WikiWatch, which lets users document and vote on the worst Wiki “spin jobs.” It’s a list on which you don’t want your company’s name.
In last week’s Part I (see hotlink below), we offered tips on how to create and monitor your Wikipedia pages -- a tricky process with some gray areas. In today's Part II, we tell you the right way to edit your entry and get errors changed about your company so you don't squander your space or end up on any list of shame. We also offer tips on the proper way to get links added back to your site:
How to Get Errors Fixed in a Wikipedia Entry
Wikipedia’s dynamic content and multiple-author format means factual errors and editing mistakes can occur. But by monitoring your Wikipedia pages, you can quickly address any errors that emerge:
-> Strategy #1. Flag factual errors for correction
Last week, we told you to designate one person in your company who would become your “Wikipedia ambassador” and charge this person with monitoring entries and being the primary contact for all interaction with the Wikipedia community. Remember, only registered users can create or edit entries and participate in the site’s discussion pages.
Your ambassador needs to be proactive in the community. Don’t just show up to protest perceived slights or inaccuracies. Get to know the volunteer administrators and editors most involved with entries related to your company or industry. Regularly participate in entry discussion pages, where changes are explained and proposed additions are debated.
For errors such as typos, grammatical mistakes, misspelled names, incorrect dates, broken links or outdated information, consider:
- Editing the mistake yourself. Although Wikipedia’s Conflict of Interest policy discourages people from editing their own pages, some stated exceptions to the rule include minor fixes for typos and grammatical errors.
- Requesting a correction. For more sensitive information, such as facts related to your company or more information about a sensitive topic, a safer route is to highlight the perceived error on the page’s discussion tab and provide the necessary citations or backup information that support the correction. Then, let someone from the community edit the page.
-> Strategy #2. Handle criticism or additionsw on the discussion pages
Marketers must remember that a Wikipedia page is not a piece of their own marketing collateral. You can’t limit an article’s scope only to information that puts your company in the best light.
What you consider negative information may turn up in your company’s article, whether it’s a description of a product failure, a lawsuit filed against your company, or some other challenge in your history. “It’s never going to be all candy canes and lollipops unless you’re Mother Theresa, and even she probably has stuff in her profile that’s not positive,” says Steve Rubel, who writes about posting to Wikipedia in his Micro Persuasion blog.
Deleting sections of an article you don’t like isn’t an option … unless you want to turn into the next great Wikipedia PR disaster (remember the WikiScanner feature mentioned above). That said, if you find sections of an article that you think are biased against or don’t give a complete picture of your company, you can request changes.
Likewise, you can request that new information be added to the page to expand an article or balance the point of view:
- For potentially controversial edits, work through the article’s discussion page. State your case for a change, outlining why you disagree with the tone or interpretation of an article. Provide independent references that support your point of view.
- To add new information, post the proposed new information on the discussion page and describe why it is relevant to the article. Again, provide supporting references and documentation and let the community make the change.
- If a change is rejected, you can continue debating the subject on the discussion page or provide additional information to bolster your request.
Another tip: Wikipedia editors have put together a style guide to help them edit entries. A section includes best practices in composing articles about companies that may be useful when you’re suggesting edits (see hotlink below).
How to Use a Smart Linking Policy
Wikipedia’s traffic rate -- it's the ninth most visited site, according to Alexa rankings -- makes it an especially tempting place for marketers to place links to their own Web sites. To prevent link spamming, Wikipedia has made outbound links from its site “no-follow” links, which don’t get indexed by major search engines and, therefore, don’t boost your site’s search engine rankings. However, links from Wikipedia pages can drive traffic to your own site.
Treat adding links to a Wikipedia article like you would any other edit, which means it’s safest to go through the article’s discussion pages to propose a new link:
- Propose adding links to your homepage or one of your brand’s subpages on any appropriate Wikipedia article.
- Alert article editors when a link has changed or if a new section of your Web site is relevant to an article’s content.
- Help editors find the most direct link. If the article is a discussion of one of your brands, but the link sends viewers to the corporate homepage and not that brand’s page, propose linking to the most relevant page.
- Consider linking within the Wikipedia environment to reduce the impression that you’re merely milking Wikipedia for Web traffic. For example, you can add links from one Wikipedia article to another (if there are multiple articles about your company and its products on the site).
Comedy Central adds links to Wikipedia articles that refer visitors to other Wikipedia articles about their top shows, rather than simply linking to the show’s Web site itself. For example, if a celebrity appears on ‘The Daily Show,’ they will propose adding a link to that celebrity’s page that highlights their recent TV appearance but sends visitors to the Wikipedia entry on ‘The Daily Show.’
Useful links related to this article
Special Report: How to Get Your Company Listed on Wikipedia, Part I
Wired’s WikiWatch blog:
Wikipedia’s Manual of Style: Companies, Corporations and Economic Information:
Wikipedia’s Conflict of Interest policy explained:
Requesting an article on Wikipedia:
Steve Rubel’s Micro Persuasion blog: