Everyone uses Wikipedia – in fact, if I see a Wikipedia entry come up on a Google search, that’s usually the first link I click on.
Can Wikipedia be used for marketing purposes? The answer is certainly – though probably not in the way you think.
A Wikipedia entry on you or your business isn’t going to directly sell widgets or get you your next commissioned painting. However, what it will do is add credibility to your name or brand by putting it up on the web for everyone to see. But, like most things in life, there are a few drawbacks to using Wikipedia.
Pro #1: It’s fact-based. Every entry in Wikipedia reads like a page out of the Encyclopedia Britannica. There aren’t any opinions, hype, or marketing ploys allowed on Wikipedia – although the users who post information may be motivated by an opinion they have. Because it’s fact-based, you’ve got an opportunity here to tell people exactly what you do and how you do it, to provide little-known company information and other things that might get lost in your marketing messages or buried in your company website.
Pro #2: It adds legitimacy to your name or brand. Because Wikipedia is a third-party, public website, information on your Wikipedia page may be more valuable to a potential customer than some of the information on your website. You’re accessing potentially millions and millions of users on their terms – no jingles, no T.V. commercials, no propaganda.
Pro #3: You can direct it … in a way. Rather than letting users start your Wikipedia page that may be riddled with errors or even meant to be a low-blow to your good name (see Con #2), why not start the page yourself – that way, you can direct the type of information that’s listed on your page. That’s one way to manage your reputation and point out information that may be little-known. Reference a news article. Link to your website. As long as you stay within the Wikipedia guidelines, you can shape the look and tone of your Wiki entry.
Con #1. Wikipedia isn’t reliable. Yes, it may seem reliable – and it’s certainly popular, often treated as The Bible for any obscure fact that no one could possibly know. I’m sure it’s settled many bets, and probably ended a few friendships. The information is based on user entries, and can be changed or modified by anyone who wants to. Not everything you see on Wikipedia is a proven fact, though it should be. Which leads me to my next point…
Con #2: Anyone can change your Wikipedia entry. That’s right, anyone: a miffed customer, disgruntled ex-employee, the brother-in-law that hates you, even one of your competitors. Anything on your Wikipedia page can have its validity challenged or be modified by anyone. This is good because it keeps some companies from hiding any past missteps – remember, Wikipedia is about public information, not PR. But beware that your Wikipedia page is vulnerable to anyone who disagrees with the information it contains.
Con #3: It needs constant patrol. Since you can’t control all of the information on your site, it’s important that your Wikipedia page doesn’t completely destroy your reputation. Be sure to check your entry regularly to see if it’s been changed – and how it’s been changed. Certainly allow users to contribute whatever they’ve got to your entry – this isn’t a time to let your controlling tendencies get to you. But in order to make sure that your good name isn’t being dragged through the mud by a customer, ex-employee, brother-in-law, etc., you’re going to have to monitor it and respond accordingly.
Remember, nothing on Wikipedia is set in stone. It’s constantly evolving and growing, with new additions and deletions from a collaboration of users. And that fluidity can end up helping or tarnishing your brand if left unchecked.