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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 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.

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.

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

wikipedia marketing

This post was first shared on SocialFresh.

Creating a Wikipedia article about your employer or client

Find more informationon this topic in our ebookIf a person or company wants to create a new Wikipedia article about themselves, they should do so through the site's Articles for Creation  tool. Here, marketers can disclose their affiliation with the company or individual and offer a draft article for consideration by the site's editors. If the content is neutral, properly cited to independent sources and the topic meets Wikipedia's requirements for an article, a Wikipedian will approve it.

There are a few things you should consider before preparing a submission.

Can I edit my company's Wikipedia page?

JanitorAn honest, straightforward question: Can I edit my company's Wikipedia page? As of writing this, Wikipedia's conflict of interest guideline mentions the Talk page 25 times, and specifically tells public relations, social media, SEO, marketing and other professionals not to edit the page. However, to make matters confusing, there's debate within Wikipedia's editorial community on whether editors like PR professionals should be able to edit the page and a plethora of blogs on the Web providing tips and best practices that seem to suggest it's ok to edit away. Some of them don't even mention legal and ethical requirements to disclose your affiliation with the company and engage the site's editors.

Jimmy Wales advocates for "the bright line," a single simple rule that marketing professionals never directly edit articles they have a conflict of interest with; a rule enforced through media humiliation for those that violate it. This has been re-inforced by best practices established by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and a common sense application of social media disclosure laws. Marketing editors that edit Wikipedia pages are routinely humiliated in the media, blocked and ridiculed on Wikipedia, create contentious relationships with the site's editors and in some cases have even found themselves in legal trouble.

In general the ethical approach to Wikipedia is to leave important editorial decisions up to the site's editors, who serve the reader's best interest. Use common sense when it comes to fixing grammer, cleaning up citation errors and edits that have been clearly approved by the site's editors. When in doubt, defer to the community.

How to handle bias or controversy on your company's or client's Wikipedia page

Marketing professionals are routinely embarrassed in the media for attempting to whitewash their employer or client's Wikipedia page, but often the article is genuinely unfair. Because Wikipedia is driven by volunteerism, editors write about things that peek their interests - stuff they're passionate about - and often strong opinions about a controversial topic drive them to Wikipedia. As a whole, Wikipedia articles tend to favor controversial topics more than they should.

First things first, stay calm and keep a cool head. The more impeccable your conduct is, the easier it will be to get the problem fixed if the content is not compliant with Wikipedia's Neutral Point of View Policy. Don't just remove it, but start engaging editors on the Talk page of the article. Take a look at a few things.

6 ways to ask for a correction on Wikipedia

Wikipedia Talk pageQorvis recently joined the ranks of PR firms like Bell Pottinger, Portland Communications and Finsbury that have been exposed for manipulating Wikipedia entries for their clients. Something that stood out from the summary at The Daily Dot  was that Qorvis is defending their actions with a familiar tune - accusing Wikipedia of not providing reasonable processes to correct errors and have their clients' reputations treated fairly.

That inspired me to write on the six ways to correct errors on Wikipedia safely and ethically as a PR/marketing participant. Avoid becoming the next media embarresment by following these steps:

What to do about tags on a Wikipedia article about your organization

Wikipedia multiple issues templateIf you work in marketing and have been editing the Wikipedia article about your client or employer, perhaps without realizing there are legal and ethicalimplications, an editor may eventually place a tag that says:

      A major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection with its subject.

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