Best Ways To Use Your Company Wiki

For some, the term wiki conjures up images of an online encyclopedia. For others their first thought is of leaked documents, exposed government secrets, and confidential information. The word itself is actually a Hawaiian term that simply means quick. But, if you have a business with offices in multiple locations, or you utilize remote workers, you should get to know the wiki on a more personal level.

Wikis are a valuable communication tool that are relatively easy to set up. Of course, you probably use several forms of communication within your company already. Why do you need another?

But wikis are not just another portal for corporate communication, yet one more inbox for you to check. In fact, they are quite a lot more, and might be the solution for the limitations inherent to some of the tools you are probably using now:

For Example:

Websites

Websites are mostly for the benefit of your customer. They are outward facing, and function primarily as an arm of your marketing department.

Intranet or Internal Website

This tool is inward facing—it speaks to your employees—but the information is usually non-collaborative.

Blogs

Blogs are an example of one-direction or hierarchical communication. Information goes down, but it is not passed back up. They also can be time-consuming and costly from a payroll perspective.

Email

Email is the most widely used method of communication in most offices, which means it can be overwhelming. Time-sensitive and urgent messages go unnoticed in clogged inboxes.

Wikis distinguish themselves from these other forms of communication because they take the best qualities of the above tools and merge them into one simple platform. With only four basic operations: edit, write, link, and save—wikis are easy to use. They are also searchable, dynamic (changeable), collaborative (multiple users can contribute to the conversation) and can include hyperlinks to other relevant pages both within the wiki, and out to the internet.

For these reasons, wikis have become the go-to communication solution for many businesses. But what are the best ways to use your company wiki?


Some of the most common ways to use a wiki:

Knowledge Banks

Many companies are now using wikis as the place to store and access vital corporate documents such as forms, company processes, and employee handbooks. The reason they are turning, more and more, away from the intranet and toward the wiki is because of the relative ease and distributive quality of updating information. These features help keep the knowledge bank relevant with the most current versions and processes.

Onboarding New Employees

Wikis can be a valuable tool in onboarding new employees faster and easier. Keeping large files like the employee handbook and policies and procedures manuals within the knowledge bank saves time and resources that would otherwise be used for printing. Beyond that, however, wikis can link out to other training tools such as videos and quizzes for tracking progress, they can include invitations for collaboration, as well as provide for real-time responses from supervisors and corporate trainers, even if off-site.

FAQs

Rather than having a printed or digital copy of an FAQ sheet, the wiki FAQ functions more like an ongoing conversation. Both questions and answers can be frequently updated, as often as is necessary, with limited waste of time and other resources.

Project Management Communication Central

When wikis are used as the main hub for project management communication, they are a collaborative space to collect ideas, track progress, and provide visible updates for the entire team. Each team member contributes to the conversation and stays current, all without clogging up email inboxes.

Brain Trust for Key Employee Essential Information

When key employees are promoted from within, or move on to external career opportunities, their job-specific knowledge does not have to leave with them. Many companies are using an internal wiki as an easily updateable brain trust for those key employees to leave behind valuable information for the next person who fills the role. This makes for faster assimilation for the new employee, even if an outside hire, because they do not have to start from ground zero. They have a job-specific knowledge bank to draw from beginning on day #1.

Each of these uses are time-saving, email box unclogging, team project friendly ideas, that make using wikis a good choice over blogs, emails, and even intranets. In many instances, all of the other platforms can be completely replaced with one combined purpose wiki, eliminating clutter, chaos, and miscommunication.

Some companies out there are getting even more creative, and have found outside-of-the-box ways to use their internal wiki in new ways for new reasons.


Creative Uses for Wikis:

Ongoing Corporate Training

Some companies are using their internal wiki quite extensively for ongoing corporate training. Beyond the basics of onboarding for new employees, the classroom applications for wikis are almost unlimited.

  • Wikis are so well organized and easy to navigate; very little direction is needed to get students started.
  • Training can be accessed from any location around the world, and from any web or mobile device.
  • Pages as simple as a glossary of terms, to as complex as 3D architectural renderings, can be added without the cost and hassle of printing and are available to all attendees.
  • Students also have the ability to contribute to and modify the content, which opens up the classroom to discussion and teambuilding exercises.
  • Once the training is over, the wiki can be used for tests, assessments, course reviews, links to other relevant sites, and follow-up beyond the classroom.

Customer Feedback

Service industry and related businesses are using wikis to collect real-time customer reviews and feedback. By adding an outward facing portal, businesses can conduct on-the-spot assessments and instantly see how their customers are responding. Using a wiki eliminates the need for an outside application or an internal web development project, so the set-up is quick and easy. This can be especially helpful during promotions, or when trying out new and experimental products or services. Managers can see the results immediately, and can make alterations on the fly, if necessary.

Restaurant Staff

Perhaps the most creative use for an internal wiki that we found was the example of a high-end restaurant that is utilizing one in the kitchen. Using the wiki platform, a real-time updated kitchen inventory, much like a running grocery list, is accessible and modifiable by the entire staff. If a line chef runs out of a particular ingredient, or the hostess notices a particular dish is extremely popular that day, the wiki is updated, and the manager knows immediately. They are also using it as a database for the master chef’s unique and specialty recipes. When alterations and substitutions are made, no matter the daily or weekly specials, the kitchen staff always stays informed. While there may be software packages available that would provide many of these same functions, the restaurant chose to use this simple to use and mostly free option that works really well.


As a communication tool, the wiki really stands alone in its versatility. Wikis can help eliminate unnecessary emails while still keeping remote employees and multiple offices updated on company news. They can be used as a repository for voluminous mostly static documents, as well as a hub for idea-sharing and team-project management.

But what really sets the wiki apart from other tools, including an intranet or even custom software, is that they are easy to set up, easy to use, customizable to your company’s needs, accessible from any location, and extremely cost-efficient.

Are you using an internal wiki in your business? If so, what are some of the best ways to use your company wiki that you’ve discovered?

Are you finding the “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” to be a little too difficult to edit? Let us help.

At The Writers for Hire, our team has years of experience navigating the rules, codes, and behind-the-scenes politics of Wikipedia. And we can guide you through the entire process:

  • Determining if your topic is eligible for a Wikipedia article
  • Researching source material
  • Writing a draft
  • Posting your finalized draft live on Wikipedia
  • Monitoring your article and updating as needed
  • Answering any questions that come up along the way

Not all topics are suitable for Wikipedia articles. To figure out if your company, your book, your CEO, or any other topic is eligible, just start here:

If you’re on the path to being a great candidate, we just need a little additional information. Please fill out the form below, or call us at 713-465-6860

Why do you think this topic deserves a Wikipedia article?
Does this topic have a Wikipedia article currently? If so, what would you like to change about the article?
Has the topic ever had a Wikipedia article that was taken down?
If so, do you know why it was taken down?
Please list the best ten sources on your topic in the area provided below. If you don’t have ten, just list as many as possible. You can include URLs to an article or publication information for offline sources. For offline sources, please include the following: Name of publication, date of publication, page number of article.

What If I’m Not Eligible?

In some cases, we can give your current PR efforts the extra boost you need to make your subject eligible. We can also help you increase your internet presence and help your search engine rankings even if you aren’t eligible for Wikipedia.

Request A Quote
or
Call 713-465-6860


Everything About Wikipedia, Part 2: Notability

In our previous post, we talked about Wikipedia in general – we explained a bit about what Wiki is (a reference) and isn’t (a blog, a soapbox, or a vehicle for free advertising), and we promised that we’d get more into specifics about what makes a topic Wiki-eligible.

As we mentioned last time, determining whether a topic is eligible for Wikipedia really boils down to two (very) important questions:

Question 1: Is your topic notable?

Question 2: Has your topic received significant coverage by neutral, reputable third-party sources?

In this post, we’re going to focus on the first question.

Before we go on, it’s important to be clear about we mean by “notable.” For our (and more importantly, Wikipedia’s) purposes, a notable topic is:

  • Of interest to the general public, not just you or a few people in your industry.
  • Something you might read about in a newspaper or magazine.
  • A topic that has been written about by journalists, rather than PR or advertising copywriters.
  • Culturally, historically, or socially relevant in some way.
Notability: A Few Examples
Let’s take a look at a sample Wikipedia page of a notable person, British novelist Terry Pratchett.

The red boxes indicate details that make Pratchett notable: He’s written a 40-novel series; he is a best-selling author in the U.K. and in the U.S — heck, the guy’s even been knighted for his “services to literature”!

And if you scroll down to the “References” section, you can see a list of the more than 100 newspaper and magazine articles; websites; television and radio interviews that were used in the creation of Pratchett’s article:

Here’s an example of a Wiki page for a notable company:

Wiki Subway

Again, the things that make Subway notable are outlined in red: it’s one of the fastest-growing franchises in the world; it’s the largest single-brand restaurant chain globally and the second largest restaurant operator globally; it’s got over 37,000 locations in 100 countries, and so on.

Also, notice that this page isn’t written like an advertisement. It gives you the facts: What Subway is, where it does business, notable rankings and statistics. But it doesn’t read like something that came from the company’s PR department, and there’s even a section called “Controversy” that talks about a few not-so-positive details, such as lawsuits and instances of negative publicity associated with the chain.

If you look at the page’s “References” section, you can see that Subway has indeed received significant media coverage:

Subway references

A Few More Examples

Of course, you don’t have to be a knighted, best-selling author or one of the world’s most popular fast-food chains to be notable enough for a Wikipedia page. There are tons of pages about people and companies that are somewhat less famous – but still notable and Wiki-appropriate:

Checklist: Determining Notability

Not sure if your topic is notable? Here are a few questions to use as a starting point:

Wiki eligible table

 

If you can answer “yes” to at least four of these questions, you might have a Wiki-eligible topic on your hands.

Of course, notice that we said “might.”

The next step in determining Wikipedia eligibility? A review of your available sources.

Tune in next week for an in-depth look at neutral, third-party sources and “significant coverage”.

Everything You Wanted To Know About Wikipedia, Part 1

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Wikipedia (…and probably some stuff you never thought to ask), Part 1

Wikipedia has become a standard, go-to resource for all kinds of facts: Want to know everything there is to know about the giant squid? Need a list of every Nobel Prize winner, organized by country? Interested in the history of Microsoft? Ever wondered about the difference between East Coast and West Coast hip-hop?

Wiki HipHop

Wikipedia is a great example of the awesome things that can happen when people get together and pool their knowledge and expertise. Anyone with a laptop and an Internet connection can contribute to Wikipedia.

But this doesn’t mean Wikipedia is a free-for-all. Yes, anyone can contribute a new article or edit an existing one — but if you want your contribution to “stick,” you’ve got to follow a ton of rules regarding content, sources, neutrality, and notability.

So, what makes a “good” Wikipedia article? Does your product, service, or company belong on Wikipedia? What happens if your article gets flagged? And what does “flagged” mean, anyway?

Wiki can be complicated (and even a little intimidating) to the uninitiated. That’s why we’ve decided to do a series of blog posts exploring the ins and outs — and rules — of Wikipedia.

This week, we’re kicking off the series with a few of the basics.

First things First: What is Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia – but what does that mean? Here’s a good definition, from Wikipedia itself:

Basically, everything you need to know about Wikipedia is in the above sentence:

  • Wikipedia is “neutral.” In other words, it doesn’t represent one single viewpoint on any subject.
  • Wikipedia contains “verifiable, established facts.” As in, facts that have been published by an uninterested and reliable third party. Facts that you can verify by checking a couple of sources, such as (reputable) newspaper or magazine articles.

We’ll take a more in-depth look at both neutrality and sources in future posts. But right now, let’s just focus on the big picture.

So, now that we know what Wikipedia is, let’s take a second to discuss what Wikipedia isn’t. And there are a whole lot of things that Wikipedia isn’t. In fact there’s a whole page on Wikipedia dedicated to this topic, and it’s pretty long.

Essentially, though, it boils down to this:

  • Wikipedia is not a blog/fansite/personal website. So you can’t write in first-person, and you can’t write whatever you want. It’s not a place for ranting about politics or enthusing about your favorite movie or TV show. That’s not to say that your favorite TV show doesn’t deserve a Wikipedia page. It probably does. But it still has to conform to Wikipedia’s standards.

In other words, like this:

 

Not this:

 

 

  • Wikipedia is not a place to publish your original research/inventions/discoveries. Let’s say you just discovered a new planet or invented a super-cool new iPhone app. This is fantastic – but it’s not Wiki-appropriate. Because Wikipedia is a place for “established” facts, it’s not a place for your original work or research . . . yet. (We say “yet” because if an established, third-party publication like Newsweek or the Wall Street Journal writes an article about you and your new planet/iPhone app, you might actually be Wiki-eligible. But more on that later.)
  • Wikipedia is not a place for advertisements/self-promotion. Again, we’ll get much more in-depth with this later, but when writing about a company, product, or service you have to be extra-careful not to sound biased. Wiki pages that sound like they were written by a company’s PR department quickly get flagged for neutrality/conflict-of-interest issues, which looks like this:

 

 

That doesn’t mean that your product, service, or company doesn’t belong on Wikipedia. It just means that, if you want your Wiki page to “stick,” you have to follow the rules.

Wikipedia, The Writers For Hire, and You (or Your Company/Product/Service)

We’ve created dozens of Wikipedia articles for clients on a wide range of topics. And we’ve got an excellent track record.

And that’s because we turn down more Wiki projects than we accept. It’s not that we don’t want your business. We do. But we don’t want to take your money if we know that your page won’t stick. Before we accept any Wikipedia project, we make sure your topic is eligible for a Wiki page.

To be eligible, a topic must meet two major criteria: It needs to be notable, and it needs to have received significant coverage by neutral, reputable third-party sources.

We’ll get more into both of these as we continue our Wikipedia series. Stay tuned!

Coming up next: Notability.

Everything About Wikipedia, Part 4: Neutrality

Now that we’ve discussed notability and sources, it’s time to take a look at another major component of Wikipedia policy: neutrality.

You probably know what neutrality means: Basically, a neutral point of view is one that doesn’t promote a particular opinion or take a side on a controversial issue. An article written in a neutral point of view will give equal voice to all major views on a subject, instead of just one.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about neutrality:

Wiki Neutral

When you write or edit a Wiki article, you are required to adhere to Wikipedia’s standards of neutrality: Stick to facts instead of opinions, present all viewpoints, and don’t use judgmental language.

Sounds easy, right? Well, it is easy. Sort of.

Our Wiki clients are often surprised when we tell them that parts of their proposed Wikipedia article need to be rewritten to avoid being flagged for neutrality issues. That’s because neutrality isn’t always so easy to identify – especially when you’re close to a particular subject.

Facts vs. Opinions

The first and most important rule of Wikipedia is, you can’t treat opinions like facts. This does not mean that opinions have no place on Wikipedia. It does mean, however, that they must be presented as opinions rather than facts. They must also be attributed to neutral, third-party sources.

Here are a few examples of how to balance fact and opinion on Wikipedia.

You can’t say:

But you can say:

Wiki Fact Option

See the difference?

Both examples basically say the same thing: The Walking Dead is a darn good show.

But the first example is purely an opinion statement. The second example provides “proof” that this opinion is held by a whole bunch of people. The show has gotten generally positive reviews from critics; it’s won several awards; it gets good ratings, etc. These statements are presented in a neutral way – and each statement contains a citation.

Let’s try another one:

You can’t say:

But you can say:

Stephen King’s Wikipedia page doesn’t directly state that he is a good writer (or a bad one, for that matter). Instead, the page presents facts about awards he’s won, critical response to his work, and so on.

“”

Differing Points of View

Another big component of Wikipedia neutrality is including several points of view – even points of view that are negative and contradictory. This also means giving space to not-so-positive aspects of your topic, such as lawsuits or controversies associated with it.

This is why there are Wikipedia pages like this one:

Notice that this page doesn’t appear to take one side or another. It simply tells us that some people criticize Walmart for certain reasons – and it also points out that Walmart has refuted these criticisms.

Here’s another example. This is from the Wikipedia page about another large retail chain, Abercrombie and Fitch:

Again, this section doesn’t appear to take one side or another. The information is presented matter-of-factly, and we can draw our own conclusions about the company.

Blog Neutrality

 

Accentuate the Positive . . . And Manage the Not-So-Positive

At this point, you might be wondering, “Why the heck would I want to put negative information on my Wikipedia page?”

Because if you don’t, someone will.

Let’s say you want to write a Wikipedia page for Company XYZ. You know that Company XYZ was sued for discriminatory hiring practices a few years ago – it was a national news story. And, it’s something that everyone at Company XYZ would love to forget.

While it would be extremely tempting to simply not mention the negative stuff – it’s a really bad idea.

Remember that anyone – anyone at all – can edit Wikipedia. This means that, the minute your page is published, absolutely anyone can add or delete information – even negative and not-so-positive information. As long as that information is supported by significant coverage in neutral, third-party sources, that is.

By including the negative information from the get-go, you are controlling how that information is presented. And, by including the good and the bad, you’re much less likely to end up getting flagged due to a perceived conflict of interest, which looks like this:

Wiki Conflict Of Interest

Staying Neutral

Not sure how to keep things neutral? Sometimes neutrality can be difficult – especially when the subject is something you’re particularly knowledgeable or passionate about.

We could probably write an entire book about neutrality – but in the interest of keeping things brief, we wrote a checklist instead. If you’re concerned about neutrality, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Avoid opinion statements. Let the facts speak for themselves.
Acknowledge differing points of view.
Avoid sales jargon and stick to neutral, clear language.
Don’t include anything that you can’t prove with citations from neutral, third-party sources.
Include all relevant information – positive and negative.

That’s it for neutrality. And, now that we’ve covered the most important Wikipedia “rules,” we’re going to take an in-depth look at content – what to put in, what to leave out, and how to decide length.

Stay tuned!

Everything About Wikipedia, Part 3: Sources

As you probably remember from our last post, Wikipedia eligibility is (mostly) based on the answers to two important questions:

Question 1: Is your topic notable?

Question 2: Has your topic received significant coverage by neutral, reputable third-party sources?

Last week, we took an in-depth look at notability. This week, we’re going to discuss sources.

What is a “Third-Party” Source?

A third-party source is a source that is not directly related to you, your company, or your product.

Wiki source table

Although there’s no hard-and-fast rule about how many sources are required for a Wikipedia article, it’s a good idea to find as many as possible to create your article. If you can’t find any third-party sources to use, your topic is not appropriate for Wikipedia.

This is not our rule. It’s Wikipedia’s. Check out the text in the red box below:

Wikipedia nosources

In other words: no sources = no article.

What is “Citing a Source”?

Citing a source is basically just a way of saying, “Hey, I didn’t make this stuff up. I can prove it. If you want to verify it for yourself, you can check out this article/magazine/book.” Sources and citations help keep the Wiki community honest.

What should you cite when writing a Wikipedia article? Pretty much everything that’s not common/general knowledge: facts, figures, dates, quotes – you name it.

Here’s an example of a Wikipedia citation:

Wiki Butler

Here’s another:

Wiki Python Cite

Avoiding “Original Research”

The Wikipedia community is very strict about the use of reliable third-party sources. Wikipedia is also very strict about its role as a repository of existing information – meaning, information, statistics, and facts that have been documented and written by third-party sources.

What does this mean for you? Well, if you use a fact and you can’t cite it, Wikipedia will flag that fact as “original research.” If you want your fact to “stick,” you’ll need to attribute that fact to a third-party source. And if you can’t attribute a fact to a third-party source, you shouldn’t put it on Wikipedia – even if you know it’s true.

Wiki articles that don’t have sources end up “flagged” by Wikipedia editors.

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Example 1: Needs Citations

The screenshot below is from the “Home video” section of the Wikipedia entry on the 1985 movie “The Goonies.” Note that there’s a little “needs additional citations” icon at the top of the section. This is because there’s only one source cited on the entire page. We’ve put blue boxes around the information that should probably be cited:

None of the information in blue is particularly controversial or contentious – which is probably why this section isn’t flagged for “original research.” All this needs is a couple of good sources that tell us when the different home video versions of the movie were released.

Example 2: Original Research

Below is a section from the Wikipedia page about ham. In this case, the section has been flagged for containing original research.

There’s only one source cited in this entire section (it’s at the very end) – but nearly every sentence contains a claim that should be cited. Again, we’ve put boxes around all of the facts that should be cited:

This section makes all kinds of claims about food safety and processes – and almost none of the “facts” presented here are cited. Even if the statements in the orange boxes are true, they still need to be cited – otherwise the entire section may be deleted from the article.

How to Find Sources

Let’s say you want to improve the above section about ham to ensure that it doesn’t get removed from the page. How do you find sources to cite? Well, for starters, you could try a quick Google search on “ham curing process”:

Google ham

The first result that comes up is the USDA’s page on food safety. And, if you click on the link, you’ll find tons of facts about the curing process:

A Google search also turns up a few magazine articles on the subject. Like this one:

Both the USDA website and the Saveur magazine article are appropriate sources for a Wikipedia article. And those are just two examples – there are tons of places to look for information about a topic like food safety. The sources are out there.

Wikipedia Sources: The Essentials

Let’s sum up what we’ve learned about sources:

  • All Wikipedia articles must be based on existing information from neutral, third-party sources such as magazines, newspapers, or government websites.
  • Every fact, date, conclusion, and quote in a Wiki article must be cited.
  • Wiki articles without citations may be flagged for lack of sources and/or “original research.”
  • A Google search is a good way to find sources.
  • Company websites can be used – sparingly – as long as you rely primarily on good, neutral third-party sources.

That’s it for sources.

Coming up next: Neutrality and Wiki

Considering a Wiki

So you’re considering a Wikipedia article for your company.

Wiki Eligibility FlowchartBut how do you know if you’re eligible?
The first question is whether your organization been covered in-depth in the media. This media needs to be produced by a neutral, verifiable third party – not a press release, your own website, or social media that you control (like LinkedIn or Facebook). Blogs usually aren’t considered reliable sources, either.

These are examples of reliable sources for your media coverage:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Books
  • Academic journals

Remember, even if the information is published in a good source, it must still be third-party. For example, if you are the article subject, we can’t use articles or books that you’ve written as a source for your Wikipedia article. If you have no external media coverage, your subject isn’t suitable for Wikipedia.

But if you can answer “Yes” to the first, the next question is whether your company has ever been mentioned in national media. If not, you’re likely not a strong candidate for Wikipedia – we suggest trying to find a way into a national publication, even just a mention, and then revisit your eligibility. If you have some national coverage, keep in mind that the more coverage you have, the stronger your Wikipedia article will be. We recommend that your coverage is in-depth enough to supply at least a paragraph of information.

If you have determined that your subject has adequate coverage, we will work with you to draft an article that is suitable for Wikipedia.

Is Your Company Ready for Wikipedia?

Hot off the (virtual) presses! If you enjoyed our six-part miniseries on Wikipedia, you’ll definitely want to check out our Wiki eBook. Is Your Company Ready for Wikipediacontains everything you ever wanted to know about Wiki for business.This 36-page free eBook includes expanded versions of all six original posts — plus loads of new info that you won’t find on our blog. Our new eBook is a must-have for anyone thinking about creating a Wikipedia page for their product or company— or for anyone who wants a quick and easy intro to the ins and outs of Wiki.

Contents include:

  • Checklists for determining Wiki eligibility/notability
  • Guidelines for content
  • A guide to finding and using Wiki-acceptable third-party sources
  • Loads of screenshots and easy-to-understand examples
  • A step-by-step guide to creating a Wiki account
  • Frequently asked questions from real Wiki clients
  • Much, much more!

Click on the link below to download your free copy today!

Download: Is Your Company Ready for Wikipedia?

Help for New Wikipedia Articles

Wordmark from Wikipedia logo 2.0
Image via Wikipedia

Thinking about starting a new Wikipedia article for yourself or your business – but you just don’t know where to start?  As we’ve mentioned before, not every article idea or subject is appropriate for Wikipedia (go here for a few pointers).

So your first step is to determine if your personal/business/product/other Wikipedia article will pass Wikipedia’s guidelines (otherwise, your article will be deleted without notice – all that hard work down the drain).

How do you know if your article is Wiki-worthy?  Well, it’s time to ask some cool Wikipedia consultants.

Leave us a comment and we’ll help you determine if your idea is a good fit for Wikipedia or not.  All we need to know is:

  1. What your article is about
  2. A few details about your article, such as why it’s relevant historically, globally, culturally, etc.
  3. Your email (optional) if you’d prefer we followup up with you that way

We’ll be sure to get back to you and get you started on your new Wikipedia page.