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Three Keys to Wikipedia Monitoring

Increasingly, a user looking for your organization's name on a search engine like Google or Yahoo! is going to see a listing in Wikipedia near the top of the search. Wikipedia is a user-generated, user-governed online resource which like a hard-copy encyclopedia provides information on just about any topic you can imagine. But unlike the leather-bound version, Wikipedia can be regularly updated by virtually anyone to reflect new information, correct errors and provide additional resources, images and links. Therein lies both Wikipedia's advantages and its challenges.

Wikipedia has become a vital information source and should be factored into your search engine optimization approach

In view of the weight search engines give to Wikipedia listings, it seems advisable to pay attention to wiki content for your listing from a brand and communications management standpoint.

Here are three (3) keys to keep in mind on Wikipedia approach:

1) Review the current Wikipedia listing OK this seems obvious but if you haven't already, you need to take a good look at the listing for your organization.

Wikipedia Review: Questions to Consider:

1) Is the tone balanced? (e.g., balance of positive/negative,etc)
2) Is something missing or inaccurate?
3) What is the listing's history? (Simply click the 'History' tab to view edits and changes)

Obviously, if there isn't a listing, now's the chance! We'll cover some thoughts on content in Tip #3.

2) Know the rules of the road
Attacking previous editors, threatening legal action or attempting to delete an entire page of content will reflect a lack of understanding of the Wikipedia world and its rules. It will likely not go well for you if you take this approach.

Wikipedia has a good Help section so take the time to familiarize yourself with best practices.

3) Optimize your content
For the reasons we've outlined above, many users such as the media and prospective customer will likely see your Wikipedia listing. Do what you can to make your content accurate and complete within the parameters of the Wikipedia process:

- Don't clog the listing with corporate-ese.
It sticks out like a sore thumb. Use everyday language from a customer's point-of-view. For more, read our post on search engine optimization and audience-oriented content.

- Don't try to expunge all the negative content
Attempting to remove undesirable content will only not work, it will make it seem less authentic and therefore, less trustworthy. Do, however, correct inaccuracies and where possible substantiate them. Also, you may want to try and move any negative content lower on the page. You can use images and product descriptions to help counteract any negative information.

Though many of the same rules apply, there are important considerations for Wikipedia management for crisis communications which are beyond the scope of this post. You should discuss contingencies and develop a plan -- which includes Wikipedia -- with your communications and PR team.

Wikipedia presents an opportunity to reinforce messaging -- usually in the form of company and product information -- in a way that your web site's news section cannot and to audiences you otherwise might not reach. Like any resource created with user-generated content, though, there is a unique culture with its own set of rules and best practices.

Embrace the wiki. Keep an eye on it and who knows, you might even like it.

D.J. Smith is Co-Founder & Senior Principal at WebDriven. A 15-plus year veteran of the Internet, he still remembers - albeit not too fondly -- how to setup a gopher site.

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