By Josh Greene

If you’ve needed to research anything in the past few years, the odds are good that you are familiar with Wikipedia. Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown into one of the largest reference websites, boasting 380 million unique views per day.  It isn’t hard to understand why.

Wikipedia almost always ranks in the top-three on Google for any keyword search, person or place.  On top of that, Wikipedia powers the Knowledge Graph that takes up the top right side of Google since Google eliminated right side desktop ads.  For people seeking answers to quick questions and in-depth information, Wikipedia is a go-to source.

So, what do you do when an investor, your CEO, or just a family member is likely to come across your page? You want to edit it, adjust it, make it part of your marketing arsenal. But, unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Understanding the History to Make Edits

Wikipedia wasn’t created as a marketing tool and doesn’t remain in your control.  In fact, there are specific rules about avoiding conflicts of interest- which means they don’t want you editing the page of a company that employs you.  With that said, it isn’t impossible to use Wikipedia, it just takes a different approach.

First, visit a page’s history tab and see its entire revision history.  This can give you an understanding as to how often the page is revised, who’s doing the revising, and what – if any – edits have been rolled back.  All of this is valuable information for your plan. For example, if your page represents important, neutral information like you want it to, you probably don’t want to see constant edits and revisions.  You’ll want to explore to see what people are changing, and why. Generally, the rollback or edit will include helpful information as to why the edit was deemed inappropriate. This will help you both to suggest revisions to the page and get the edit to stick, or decide the revision is unnecessary.  The last thing you want is someone just messing around with your page arbitrarily. In these cases, there are options to talk to the editor, appeal to an admin or escalate further. All of these options can lead to potential pitfalls for your presence on Wikipedia, so it is important to consider them carefully.

While Wikipedia is open for anyone and everyone to edit, it isn’t the Wild West. There are plenty of Wikipedia sources to help guide people on how to best revise. It’s good to be aware of best practices as you make a plan for how your page will be edited appropriately.

  1.      Slow and steady: Editors should take their time.
  2.      Follow the rules: Look up and ingrain yourself in the rules of editing.
  3.      Sources: Reliable sources are the backbone of Wikipedia pages.
  4.      Talking: Use the Talk page to discuss edits for certain pages and ask questions.  

Once you have a feel for what changes are being made to the page, you can announce yourself as an employee of the company and recommend changes to be made on the Talk page.

What to Do When You have a Problem

False, out-of-date or biased information can crop up throughout a page. Controversies can become the main topic, taking up far more room than necessary while all other information is relegated to a paragraph or two. If this happens, it’s a good time to be familiar with best practices and the rule book.

False or biased information may be removed with a note as to why the information was inappropriate; however, an editor added it in previously, so you will probably have to contend with them.  You can ask anyone following the page for help, or even take steps to request certain users be banned if there is a prolific problem stemming from one user. It is important to understand how to approach these issues and who can be an ally before you go down that road. If you proceed heedlessly, you can get burned by the Wikipedia community.  

Wikipedia can be the first way someone gets in-depth information on your company.  You want to make sure that information is true and pertinent. Wikipedia must be treated carefully as an essential tool and it can become an asset for your company.

About the author: Josh Greene is CEO of The Mather Group which helps companies with online marketing and Wikipedia challenges.

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