In the last year, I’ve received close to a dozen calls from people and companies who want a Wikipedia page. (People find me through this post I wrote for the Content Marketing Institute: How to Develop a Wikipedia Page that Sails Through the Approval Process.)
Since writing the CMI post, I’ve had the opportunity to write a few more Wikipedia pages — and have learned a great deal about Wikipedia in the process. One of the biggest mistakes companies (and people) make with Wikipedia is seeing it as another marketing or social media channel.
Here’s the skinny: Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia.
If you’re of a certain age, you remember those big, heavy paper-based books. Sometimes you were lucky enough to have parents or grandparents who invested in a set of encyclopedias. Usually though, you found them in the library.
Whenever you had a report due in school, the first place you headed was toward the rack of encyclopedias. If you couldn’t find your topic there, it might not exist. And, because only a few companies published these things, your teacher always knew when you were writing straight from the encyclopedia — all she had to do was go read it. Busted!
Wikipedia is just like those encyclopedias of yore — except now the information is online and easily accessible. And, it’s continually updated.
Because it’s an encyclopedia, the Wikipedia community takes a dim view of content that’s promotional or self-serving. This means that just because you think you or your company deserves a page doesn’t mean the editors or community does.
Before creating a Wikipedia page (that subsequently gets denied), take some time to determine if you or your company merit one. First read Wikipedia’s Help:Contents. Then, ask yourself a few questions:
1. Am I or my company notable?
See Wikipedia’s guidelines concerning “notability.” Wikipedia: Notability (FYI, “notability” and “notoriety” are not the same, something I had to tell one international playboy.)
2. Have I or our company created a new technology?
If yes, do a search to see if a page exists on your topic. If one doesn’t, then you may want to create one. But beware: Your page has to be unbiased and factual and has to give readers a complete perspective — the way this page on C++ does. This means it can’t be all about you.
3. Can I add information to an existing page?
Bill Robertie, for example, is a notable backgammon expert. His books are used as citable references on Wikipedia’s “backgammon” page. And, because he’s a champion player and author, he’s notable enough to merit his own page (a page one of his fans created). It was easy enough for him to add a link to his commercial Website on his biographical page.
4. Can I fix an existing page?
This is a fairly easy way to get started with Wikipedia and learn how the site works. The page for “Marketing automation,” for example, needs citations. If you view the history, you can see whoever created this page has had multiple run ins with editors due to posting vendor links, promotional content and “original thought and analysis.” (If there’s anything the Wikipedia community abhors, it’s original analysis.)
If you were to make this page better, you could, for example, include sections about the history of marketing automation, how it works, how companies use it, the advantages and disadvantages, etc. and then create links to marketing automation companies that also have pages. The goal would be to give people a factual, unbiased overview of the topic.
In the last year, I’ve come to respect Wikipedia. Creating content for the site isn’t easy and requires a full set of skills including strategy, analysis and research. People all over the globe use it and as such, rely on the community of editors to create content that can be backed up by reputable sources such as books, newspapers, journals and bloggers.
Which means, Wikipedia isn’t another marketing channel and shouldn’t be viewed as such.
What’s your experience with Wikipedia? Leave your comments below.