Why Wikipedia is More Important than Twitter

by David King on Nov 16, 2011

How many marketing organizations have really established a methodology to prioritize social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, or blogging?

Hype inspires excitement, inflated expectations, and – unfortunately – guides our hand.

But shouldn’t we be prioritizing resources based on ROI, customer use, traffic volumes?

Growth -> Hype -> Misguided Priority

Social channels attain hype based on growth rates, instead of total penetration. Google + for example experienced a spike in initial hype for getting 10 million users in only 16 days.

That’s enough growth to make headlines, but still less than one percent of the earth’s population, which just hit 7 billion. There’s been plenty of stories about Twitter’s phenomenal growth rate over the years, but even now only 13% of online adults use Twitter.

You can blame the media and the internet for fostering shiny object syndrome, but change is what makes it news, not value. We need to learn how to tell the difference and prioritize on ROI.

In Comparison

I’m not advocating corporations ditch Twitter, but challenging readers to ask the question, “are we prioritizing based on hype?”

Wikipedia is the 5th or 6th largest website in the world by traffic. Wikis show up in the top ten search results of 95% of all searches and about 50% of internet users use Google in any given day. ReadWriteWeb praised something called ://URLFAN as an influence index on the Web; an index that has identified Wikipedia as the #1 most influential website on the internet.

Wikipedia is up with YouTube, Facebook and Twitter as one of the top websites in the world, yet many organizations with dozens of Twitter handles, Facebook pages and YouTube channels have never even read their Wiki. Google searches for the top 5 largest companies in the world reveal Wikis as one of the top results on each one.

Why has Wikipedia fallen off the corporate agenda, while Twitter sits on its pedastool up top?

Barrier to Entry

One reason is the barrier to entry. A blog can (technically) be setup in hours and a Twitter handle in minutes. On these platforms no formal rules for good content are established, collaboration or agreement with other members is not required, and few challenging new skills are required in comparison. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube don’t mandate consensus or agreement with other members. There’s no rules.

In comparison, Wikipedia is said to have more rules than any one person knows, marketing content is often met with public lambasting and success requires genuine community collaboration. New skills like coding in Wikipedia’s HTML-style code need to be learned as well. It’s not as easy to just jump in and start learning; gaining the expertise is a long hard road, riddled with challenges, obstacles and lessons learned the hard way.

Wikipedia requires compliance with policies. That’s because you share a Wiki with a community rather than owning a handle, URL or page.

Maturity Matters

Wikipedia is over 10 years old. The growth rate in number of articles on Wikipedia reached its peak years ago. It’s traffic growth rate is basically stagnant. That’s because it’s already established and yet utterly overlooked. It has no hype, because it’s not growing, it’s already grown up.


Don’t walk away feeling like I’ve offended Twitter’s position as a social media favorite. I can already envision the comments accusing of me being a non-believer, not getting it, or telling me how they use Twitter. I get a lot of business from Twitter and develop Twitter-based marketing plans for clients routinely.

But I’d like to challenge readers to take a moment and think about it. Are marketing priorities being created based on hype instead of value? Are you overlooking Wikipedia, because it’s too hard to learn? Why is Twitter or Facebook such a priority, while Wikipedia goes unnoticed? Are you over-investing in shiny objects? Why have we invested in large, fragmented, unmanageable social sites that can take years to build a following and grow SEO, when a hand-full of rule-bound, manageable, community built pages already top the search tools we know all our constituents use every day.

Post Author

David King is the founder of Ethical Wiki, a professional services organization that helps companies improve Wikipedia ethically by offering content, requesting corrections and discussing controversies. Learn more at ethicalwiki.com or read our eBook on Wikipedia & marketing....