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How to use Wikipedia as a marketing opportunity

How to use Wikipedia as a marketing opportunity

By Joe Chernov, VP of Content Marketing, Eloqua

Thinking of Wikipedia as a marketing opportunity is a paradox.  Although a Wikipedia article can be valuable to your marketing efforts, deliberately trying to use it as a marketing channel is certain to backfire.  In this way it’s a little like dating: the harder you try to find a partner, the fewer romantic dinners you’ll find yourself enjoying.  

Given that Wikipedia factors so prominently in search results, however, it’s impossible to ignore the crowd-sourced giant.  So how should marketers approach Wikipedia?  As a member of the community, that’s how.  

Much like Twitter, the University or your local fitness center, the Wikipedia community has its own rules and guidelines – 150 in fact.  Becoming a respected member of the Wikipedia community requires that you begin by understanding its rules and social mores, as well as Wikipedia parlance.  (Do you know the difference between an “article” and a “page” or an “editor” and a “user”?  If you are going to be taken seriously, you need to.)  

Once you have earned a reputation as a trusted “Wikipedian,” the community will be more open to your input, even on topics related to your business.  This is not to suggest that you need to earn Wikipedia’s trust so that you can misuse it later.  On the contrary, you need to prove that you have the community’s best interests in mind – not your employer’s – so you can separate yourself from those who have sought to force-fit marketing copy into articles that are intended to be factual and disinterested.

But what are Wikipedia’s “societal” norms and how can you begin to internalise them?  Here are some of our essential insights shared in this resource:

For a company (or person) to qualify to have a Wikipedia article, the subject has to be considered “notable.”  This threshold is vaguely defined.  Many people believe that media coverage in a major newspaper alone constitutes notability.  This is a misconception.  The stories also have to characterise the company – or individual – as a leader in its field.  In other words, not just any organisation qualifies for a Wikipedia article.  It must be one who is seen as driving change or dominating an industry.  The lack of notability is one of the most common reasons for pages being taken down.

If you are new to Wikipedia and your first “contribution” is a page for your company, you should expect some bumps in the road. If you repurpose copy from your marketing collateral, you are certain to see your page removed.  Not only does the use of marketing copy violate the “objective spirit” of Wikipedia, but, surprising to many, it also is a potential copyright violation.  Your company’s words are most likely copyrighted, and Wikipedia is published under a Creative Commons license, which means the content needs to be released from the “all rights reserved” shackles that bind most corporate copy.

As a member of your company’s marketing team, you are more likely to find success in editing factual inaccuracies about you than you will be in initiating an article where it doesn’t exist.  Nevertheless, the perception that you cannot edit an article about yourself (or your company) is a persistent myth.  There is no firm rule that prohibits you from editing an article in which you have a professional interest.  It’s simply generally discouraged.  

To increase your odds of success, you should take three steps prior to attempting to make any changes to an article about your employer:  

1. Familiarise yourself with Wikipedia’s guidelines.

2. Gain experience and earn credibility by establishing your own personal page and editing articles that relate to your human interests.

3. Ensure the edits you make are both factual and supported by reliable citations.

A friend once described the act of editing Wikipedia as the art of connecting citations with words.  You see, the site is less about what you believe to be true, and more about what you can verify as being true. After all, everyone has an opinion.  

Wikipedia just celebrated its 10-year anniversary (a millennium in “web age”) because it holds editors to a high standard.  Adhere to that standard if you want to be a valued member, both for yourself and your organisation.

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