By Neil Hallmark Senior Consultant at Kaizo PR
Ok, so ‘strategy’ is perhaps pushing it a bit. But the popularity of Wikipedia means that it has quickly become one of the internet’s biggest and widest disseminators of information. Whatever your thoughts surrounding the use of Wikipedia for finding ‘factual’ information, it can’t be ignored as a communications tool.
With this in mind, last week we met with the UK chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation, the charity behind Wikipedia (and nine other projects!) and this got me thinking about how brands should be using Wikipedia.
Perhaps this is the obvious one, i.e. making sure your article isn’t vandalised or inaccurate information posted. Given Wikipedia’s popularity (ranked 18th by Hitwise for global website traffic), and the challenge of controlling content, it’s not surprising that brands worry about how they are portrayed.
Google ranks Wikipedia highly in its search results so what your entry says can have a big impact on customer perceptions. Take Flip Video as an example (a Kaizo client). The daily traffic statistics (stats.grok.se) show that Flip_video was viewed 9,775 times in November 2009. That’s nearly 10,000 potential customers who could have been influenced by the Wikipedia entry alone
The solution is to monitor your Wikipedia articles for potentially damaging changes. Simply set up an RSS feed from the ‘history’ tab of the article and whenever a change is made you will be automatically updated.
So if something is factually incorrect on your brand page, what can you do? Wikimedia UK recommend firstname.lastname@example.org as your first port of call. This could result in the inaccuracies being removed, or the page being ‘protected’ in exceptional cases.
The second option is to edit the page yourself. However, a word of caution here, beware of ‘whitewashing’ (replacing harsh words with ‘softer’ ones) and also make sure you disclose any conflicts of interest on the ‘discussion page’. Better still; defer the changes to non-conflicted users.
It’s likely that you have a wealth of information and expertise within your organisation. It’s probably already in the public domain and may even have been covered elsewhere. So why not share it on Wikipedia? As long as the facts can be verified by multiple reliable sources (think ‘The Guardian’ rather than your personal blog), you have an opportunity to build a thought-leadership position on a major global website that dominates Google’s search results.
Above all Wikipedia is just one platform of course and your approach should be integrated within your wider communications plan, including a mix of the myriad other social media channels that are relevant to your business and communications objectives.