Why Wikipedia Needs Marketers

by David King on Nov 28, 2011
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Wikipedia’s About page says articles are written by anonymous internet volunteers “without pay”.

Yet salaried marketers with the right policies, guidance and expertise can fill a crucial content gap for Wikipedia.

Consider some data about Wikipedia

Wikipedia is attracting fewer new contributors.

The number of active contributors is dropping.

But the number of articles is growing.

And so is the size of those articles.

The volume of content is growing, but the active contributors to maintain, update and police those articles is shrinking. As this trend continues, vandalism, bias, outdated information and blatant factual errors will run even more rampant.

Marketers are the most motivated to maintain Wikis on subjects important to them and invest the time in providing quality, well-verified content. We can fill this gap if we can learn to support Wikipedia’s encyclopedic goals and follow the rules.

Bad Blood

The community doesn’t like us and it’s our fault. We didn’t read the rules, we didn’t disclose our conflict of interest, we ignored legal’s consult. We were in a hurry and we reposted marketing content to Wikipedia. We had egos and we fought with Wikipedia admins that know more than us. We set expectations that couldn’t be met and most of all, we didn’t take our time to learn.

After thousands of unorganized, independent skirmishes between marketers and Wikipedia’s editors; after gallons of venom has been spit between both sides; and after Wikipedia’s gatekeepers have spent countless hours reverting, reporting, banning and fighting with persistent marketers, we’ve lost the community’s good faith. A good faith offered by Wikipedia’s own community policies, yet we never deserved it and both sides need us to earn back.

Peace not War

We all know wars are expensive, costly and ineffective. One marketer uses rotating IP addresses, wifi hotspots and what’s called sockpuppet accounts to make secret contributions to Wikipedia. That’s like hiring the CIA instead of sending a diplomat.

Marketers often interpret Wikipedia’s Conflict of Interest policy as something that blocks all marketers from ever touching a Wiki. It’s actually more about WHAT you contribute than WHO contributes it, but as a group, marketers make poor edits. Individuals with a conflict of interest are more likely to vandalize a Wikipedia article than protect and improve it.

Wikipedia doesn’t have anything against marketers, just against marketing content. They don’t have a problem with conflict of interest writers, just bias content. There’s no problem with newcomers, just ones that run in like a bull in a China shop posting whatever they want.

The Conflict of Interest policies are written to ward off the vast majority of editors who are most likely to make inappropriate edits.

Appeal to Marketers

For marketers my appeal is similar to the prior post on handling disputes on Wikipedia. Be humble, learn, listen and follow the rules. Take your time. Invest in Wikipedia. Earn our good faith back.

Stop warring and seek peace. Mend the divide and prove to the community that we can contribute great well-verified, encyclopedic content that the community, Wikipedia’s readers and your boss can all appreciate. We can contribute images, neutralize bias and protect Wikis from vandalism, serving the community and our business.

Appeal to Wikipedia & Jimmy Wales

Conflict of Interest editing is like selling digital goods (like video game accounts). At some point the market learned to stop banning it, and instead legitimize it, oversee it, regulate it. There has to be a better way to institutionalize COI contributions in a way that allows more widespread positive contributions from marketers while reducing the burden and drama caused by inappropriate edits done by amateur COI Wikipedians.

Facilitate a certification program, ask marketers to sign behavioral agreements, designate admins to oversee assigned paid-for writers that help. You could even charge annual fees to certified COI Wikipedians that contribute to the donation pool. Wikipedia gets so many inquiries from marketers; why not send frustrated marketers to someone who can help? Someone who can help build bridges, be diplomats, consult and provide quality contributions, instead of feeding the hungry war machine.

By actually encouraging COI contributions in a well guided process with oversight, Wikipedia can tap the most knowledgeable and motivated group of contributors.

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....