Thursday, May 16, 2013


3 Keys to Successful Content Marketing on Wikipedia

by David King on May 15, 2013
Wikipedia marketingWikipedia marketing is hard.
Offering content to Wikipedia’s editorial community is different than traditional content marketing.
The content is rule-bound. The editors are thorough. And these editors have to produce neutral content about the company, rather than a thought-leadership subject.
Some companies have such strong opinions about themselves and certain controversies they are involved in, it can be an emotional process to write neutrally on it.
Recently I’ve seen many public relations professionals following the best practices established by Chartered Institute of Public Relations, Jimmy Wales, and PR associations around the globe to offer content and other suggestions on the Talk page and allow impartial volunteer Wikipedians that serve the reader’s best interest actually make editorial decisions.
This is how it should work.
This is also probably what is legal for us (marketers) to do, after a court found that editing Wikipedia anonymously was an illegal form of astroturfing.
But the success of these projects are mild at best, so I thought it would be helpful to write on the three components that best establish whether a company will be successful on Wikipedia or not.

1. Aligned outcomes

To be successful on Wikipedia, your organization needs to want the same thing Wikipedia does – a neutral article. Most neutral articles include some things stakeholders within the company may not like or may have strong opinions about.
The software is glitchy, the organization was engaged in a lawsuit, or they had layoffs years ago. We pursue product reviews even knowing they will be fair and balanced, but it is more difficult for us to be fair and balanced for ourselves – to write our own product reviews and have the company see value in it.
First, consider if a neutral article will make stakeholders happy.
It is common for public relations professionals to add promotional content to Wikipedia, only to attract volunteers that balance the page with less flattering content.
Sometimes the marketing team is best off just leaving Wikipedia well-enough alone. In fact, EthicalWiki turns down more than half of the business inquiries that come our way, because the prospect’s objectives are just too far out-of-step with Wikipedia’s, leaving us no ethical path to achieve what they want.
Ask yourself: Can I offer something Wikipedia wants? That is useful and valuable to the community and their readers?

2. Wiki Know-how

You need to know (or be willing to learn) how to edit Wikipedia in the general sense. Most of our new editors do not do well and new editors acting in a PR role do even worse.
According to one editor I talked to “it is almost impossible for a ‘social media expert’ to just come along here and immediately write anything worth keeping.”
The Wikipedia community is constantly urging public relations professionals to edit Wikipedia in a general way before attempting to improve articles where they have a conflict of interest, but most struggle to justify the time to learn if Wikipedia does not provide enough billable hours to justify investing in the expertise.
Besides using a vendor like us, PR agencies and large companies can assign one person in their marketing team to become an expert who is willing to devote the time to learn.

3. An advocate for ethics

For most companies that want to do content marketing on Wikipedia, there will come a time in the process that will challenge your ethics. Questions will be raised like, “will Wikipedians notice XYZ is missing?” or “would we get away with positioning it this way?”
There needs to be a voice in the process to persuade the team to be fair and honest and this usually comes out to the organization’s best interest.
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