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Simple Guide To Wikipedia and Marketing [Infographic]

Wikipedia and marketing infographicAfter Wiki-PR was exposed last year for manipulating Wikipedia and recieved a cease and desist letter from the Wikimedia Foundation, more marketers have been raising questions about their approach to Wikipedia and ethical behavior on the site. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations has published a best practices guide for marketers participating on Wikipedia and Ethical Wiki has our own 18-page eBook. For those seeking a short version, I created this infographic with a collection of stats and information on ethical Wikipedia engagement.  

The Wikimedia Foundation's new Terms of Use for Marketers

799px GavelIf you follow my blog, you know just how illegal I think it is for marketing professionals to pretend to be crowd-sourced editors on Wikipedia. The Federal Trade Commission requires that those with a financial connection to a company disclose it online. Pretending to be a crowd-sourced participant is a little thing we call astroturfing. It's not just deceitful, it's against the law. Yet a recent surveyfrom the Public Relations Society of America found that 12.5% of public relations professionals believe it is common practice for marketers to pretend to be someone else to get their edits made.

When PR firm Bell Pottinger was scandalized in the media for manipulating Wikipedia on behalf of their clients, one fact that emerged was that they created fake user profiles to make it more convincing that they were crowd-sourced editors. In other cases, marketing professionals edit other pages than their own, to make their self-portrayal as a crowd-sourced volunteer more convincing. Recently I bumped into a Wikipedia editor that was obviously sponsored by corporate interests and using Wikipedia for covert advertising - yet they insisted they were a crowd-sourced volunteer, even though I have now spoken to three of their clients.

The Insider's advantage

800px Põltsamaa Castle walls
   Wikipedia's community has
   high walls keeping out
When a prospective client tells me they need someone "on the inside" of Wikipedia's community, it gives me that twing of discomfort when you know something is off. It sounds like they're looking for "an inside job" or someone with relationships with editors that will help them sway their page from neutral. It's as if Wikipedia needs to be infiltrated.

Although that's probably not what they meant, I'm quick to give my default disclaimerish response: our reputation makes editors more willing to work with us, but it doesn't mean we have influence to sway the article from neutral. On the contrary, we have those connections because we don't try to bias the article.

PRSA's 2013 Wikipedia study

describe the imageThe Public Relations Society of America published a new survey of public relations professionals on the relationship between brands and Wikipedia, following up on the one it published last year.The survey of 1,620 PR pros found that 80 percent of respondents believe that the public sees Wikipedia as a credible resource. About 60 percent of PR pros feel it is common practice to edit Wikipedia articles on behalf of a client or employer and 12.5 percent of PR pros in North America believe it's common practice to pose as someone else to make edits.

Out of the 40 percent of respondents that made edits to Wikipedia, about three-quarters made the edits directly rather than proposing changes on the Talk page of the article. Wikipedia's community news site, the Wikipedia Signpost, noted that the study shows the majority of PR pros that participate are violating Wikipedia's conflict of interest policy, which "strongly discourages" editing articles where you have a financial connection. The guideline warns that the practice of editing pages directly may be illegal and that it can create risks of media exposure that damages the client's brand equity.

Three traits of positive marketing participation on Wikipedia

A recent news article said that the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, supports companies that participate on Wikipedia in a manner that is "ethical, transparent and useful." These three words, spoken on a whim, are a great criteria for distinguishing between those that will find themselves in hot water with the Foundation and the Wikipedia community and marketer's that will sail through safer waters.

1. Transparent

We've covered before how the Federal Trade Commission requires that marketing professionals disclose their financial connection online and not act as though they are crowd-sourced participants. A major focus of the Foundation's recent legal complaint against a Wikipedia astroturfing service, Wiki-PR, is the mis-representation of their identity on the site. Positive marketing participation is disclosed and transparent. 

Ethical Wikipedia Marketing (eBook)

Open Book Policy (5914169915)Regular followers of the Ethical Wikipedia Marketing blog may have noticed it's been a little quiet recently. That's because I've been busy working on an 18-page e-book  about Wikipedia marketing that was just published today.

The eBook was inspired by an email from Markus Franz of the German Wikipedia consultancy Sucomo Consulting. This was shortly after astroturfing service Wiki-PR was banned from Wikipedia, exposed for deceptive practices and further ridiculed by the Wikimedia Foundation. Markus sounded frustrated that many of the German press covering the story said that marketing professionals should never edit their client or employer's page directly, even though the German Wiki has different rules that allow direct editing using special corporate accounts.

Is Wikipedia Social Media?

wikipedia marketing

Which department owns Wikipedia? It’s a common question. Is Wikipedia social media? Not quite, but sort of. Wikipedia has usernames and discussion strings, but that's its collaboration platform. It's not a networking, socializing, or information-sharing channel, but a means to collaborate on the end-goal of maintaining an online encyclopedia.

Update on Wikipedia's "Paid Advocacy" Debate for Marketers

wikipedia marketing

This post was first shared on SocialFresh.

Wiki-PR sockpuppets exposed

This is a repost of the Wikipedia SignPost article "Extensive Network of Clandenstine Paid Advocacy Exposed" based on the story the Daily Dot broke in "The Battle to Destroy Wikipedia's Biggest Sockpuppet Army." If you are concerned about astroturfing on Wikipedia, please report this and similar incidences to the California and New York attorney generals.

"Let the largest Wikipedia research firm help you claim your top spot in Google search results. ... We build, manage, and translate Wikipedia pages for over 12,000 people and companies." (Wiki-PR's main page)

Q&A on Public Relations and Wikipedia

This Q&A with Ethical Wiki's David King was originally published on Wikipedia's community news site, The SignPost and has been translated into German here.

Editing Wikipedia anonymously as a PR rep may be illegal?

The Federal Trade Commission requires that those with a financial connection to a company provide clear and obvious disclosures regarding their affiliation. If readers presume Wikipedia's content is written by independent, crowd-sourced participants, but it is actually a corporate communication or promotion, this may be an illegal form of covert advertising that is misleading to readers. The FTC's .com disclosures guide and the findings of a German court case seem to uphold similar principles. It's hard to say how the law would be interpreted in different circumstances, but companies should proceed with caution.

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