5 ways to explain to your boss why Wikipedia matters

by David King on Jul 12, 2012
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The biggest reason marketing and Wikipedia’s editorial community often find the relationship contentious is because companies haven’t invested the intellectual capital in meeting Wikipedia’s content needs.

We’ve made a science out of the most viral tweet, the optimal Facebook post, most compelling blog and optimized landing page, but haven’t invested in ethical Wikipedia engagement.

We’re advanced users of Twitter, which has existed for six years, but haven’t figured out Wikipedia, a website almost twice as old.

I previously wrote a post “Why Wikipedia is more important than Twitter,” based on the premise that we have over-prioritized shiny objects, while ignoring a website with a larger installed readership.

When marketing leaders establish priorities based on data, instead of buzz, they often find that Wikipedia is more important than they think.

But investing in doing Wikipedia properly means convincing your boss it’s important. So here’s five reasons Wikipedia is more important than… other stuff.

1. More readers

Compiling data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that Wikipedia has more educated, adult, online readers than Facebook or Twitter. Wikipedia’s readers have more PhDs than Facebook and Twitter combined and only a few less readers than Facebook has members.

2. The customer lifecycle

Public relations raises awareness for companies and products, but afterwards media, customers, potential employees, partners and others need a neutral and independent source for the research phase of the lifecycle.

Wikipedia isn’t at the “awareness” phase, but is at the interest or research of a partnership. Readers come with purpose and they’re looking for information on your company, brand, heritage, reputation, leadership, products and culture. Why wouldn’t we want to help Wikipedia inform readers about us?

3. More traffic

EthicalWiki looked at the blog, Twitter and Wikipedia “traffic” of a Fortune 500 technology company.

To get the same traffic as their Wikipedia article, this example company would have to write three blogs a day for a year.

If each tweet was read by one percent of their followers, it would take about 1,000 tweets to reach the same number of eye-balls.

The chart on the right shows the readership of a single blog post versus the annual readership of a Wikipedia article for a Fortune 500 company.

Try the experiment yourself by looking at the average readership of your blog and the views of corresponding Wikipedia articles.

4. Investing for the long-term

The average Facebook post or tweet has a lifespan of less than 24 hours. Increasingly organizations are investing in shorter and shorter-term ROI, but I measure the ROI of a Wikipedia project over three years and expect my efforts to remain for the foreseeable future.

The money invested in tweeting is gone in a flash, but a Wikipedia article could outlast the very popularity of Facebook or Twitter. Companies that want to invest in a durable product will find Wikipedia a compelling opportunity.

5. Wikipedia is serious

Wikipedia isn’t a place for sensational headlines, thought-leadership, news-jacking or corny hooks.

Wikipedia is a place for serious, encyclopedic information to inform readers on a subject. Technical companies, B2B companies and those with serious products have a hard time finding visuals for pintinterest or showing personality for Twitter.

Wikipedia doesn’t require personality or entertaining content, just serious and informative information.

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....

  • BD

    I and others have tried adding entries for companies with nothing but facts and data supporting those facts. We can rarely get them posted. The problem is the human factor. Sometimes we get explanations such as “company not notable enough” — gimme a break. I’ve seen plenty of less notable companies make the cut. Too much bias.

  • What are some of the companies or descriptions of them? 

  • I don’t think it’s bias. Wikipedia is all about the human factor, and without it, it wouldn’t be Wikipedia. Just imagine a ton of small businesses getting a Wikipedia page despite their status. It wouldn’t be as reliable as it is now as it will start looking just like another marketing medium.

  • Wikipedia users need to correct the “wikpedia” image in your article :P

  • BD – We had the same problem at first. We have been more successful recently. Some suggestions – The account name/email that you use makes a difference. It should appear to be a real person, not a generic account or company account. Don’t make too many changes at once. We make a few changes, then wait a few weeks. We are also beginning to make edits on other pages, so that we are active participants in the Wikipedia community. We also try to provide sources and links wherever possible, so that the information is supported. This has worked for us over the past few months. Hope it helps.

  • David King

    The more attention an article has, the better its quality and neutrality. Company articles tend to be bias (one way or another), because they are often written by a small number of people and have very little oversight from the volunteer community.

  • David, Do you have recommendations for how a company / marketing firm might work to manage Wikipedia articles that are written to put a company in a negative light? 

  • Do you have a few examples you could share @53d99191a899d7cb7b1b7fb8f141bd34:disqus ? Would love to see the work you have done.

  • David King

    Please don’t do this. What you’re talking about is making it appear as though you are a volunteer editor in order to reduce the scrutiny to your anonymous edits. This is a big part of what Bell Pottinger got in trouble for – they went out of their way to make themselves appear as though they were volunteers. However, it is against Wikipedia’s username policies to create a username on a company. Your name should be for you as an individual and you should openly disclose who you are.

  • David King

    Alexa and BD, there are good instructions here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Dennis_Brown/EASYMONEY

  • Thanks @google-621be97444400a85a20a590ba95e7da9:disqus , this is helpful and I look forward to digesting it.

  • David King

    That depends, but I can give some general advice. Generally you should treat Wikipedia like any independent news and information source. Just like the media, it has the right and autonomy to cover negative or embarrassing things. However, they strive to be neutral and if the article is genuinely bias in an overt way, transparently collaborating with experienced editors (with a dose of patience) will eventually get it resolved.