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April 6th, 2010

Wikipedia 201

We all know that Wikipedia is crucial to your communications efforts. It’s always on the first page of Google results and its millions of participants believe that everything on Wikipedia is true and accurate.

The most common queries we get about Wikipedia are “How do I submit a listing?” and “My page is wrong; how do I change it?”  We also get “Why does RLM do this so well when I can’t?!”

Good questions, all.

The answer to the first is straightforward: You don’t submit a listing to Wikipedia. You create a listing.

Anyone on earth can create and edit Wikipedia listings. There is no submission process. And you might have read this week about a new, much-improved Wikipedia UI dubbed Vector, which leads us to the second question. (The third question is our secret sauce, but you can call me anytime at 212-741-5106 x233 and I’ll give you a quote.)

Here are the realities of Vector, and why you should pay attention:

With Vector, editing Wikipedia pages has become much easier because they’ve removed much of the “wiki code” users see in the editing process. Now,  users edit information in tables and boxes via simple forms. It’s still not the dictionary definition of easy but it’s more user friendly.

The hope from the Wikis is that by simplifying the editing process, more users will edit listings. Up to now, just 1% of Wikipedia users have been responsible for more than 50% of edits.

And what about that 1%? Raises an interesting point: Wikipedia is the result of contributions created and edited by users. Wikipedia’s editors are mere mortals who volunteer to edit contributions; their only qualification is that they love and use Wikipedia a lot. These editors have no more power than we do; they just spend more time on Wikipedia than most of us do.

It’s important to understand that Vector is a UI change and includes functionality changes. It has nothing to do with content. Wikipedia entries still have to be written according to their own guidelines for encyclopedic content. That means NONE of your marketing copy is appropriate for Wikipedia. None of it. For more on RLM’s own “way of doing Wikipedia,” read this article.

Vector also makes no changes to the fact that anyone can edit (beginning to sense a theme?). If your brand has competitors or is involved in controversy, you need to be even more vigilant about your Wikipedia listing(s).

Now about that page content…

Smart companies are recognizing that Wikipedia is a communication vehicle that millions depend upon. Like Twitter, Facebook, your own blog and the news media, Wikipedia delivers actual measurable value to a communications program when used effectively. If you haven’t done a thorough audit of your Wikipedia presence recently, the time is nigh. If you aren’t sure what that audit involves, we can do it for you.  This is not a hard sell; we’re just telling you what we do.

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