In the age of social media, you can use Wikipedia -- the world's online encyclopedia –- as a marketing tool. Small businesses are find that getting a listing in Wikipedia can help validate their existence and more.
Only eight years old, Wikipedia, 'the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit' already has more than three million articles in English alone, covering nearly all major companies and a lot of minor ones as well. Should yours be among them?
'If you're consumer-facing, it's important to be in Wikipedia,' says Sharon Nieuwenhuis, account manager at RLM PR, a public relations firm that offers Wikipedia placement and article correction among its services. 'It's a way of proving legitimacy, and not being in there has become something of a stigma. People go to Wikipedia to find basic information about your organization, and if they don't find it, they think, ‘Why should I pay attention to you?''
Appearing in Wikipedia can contribute to the bottom line. 'If our potential customers want to learn about something, they either go to a vendor company's website or Wikipedia, or to Google,' says Steve Goodman, CEO of PacketTrap, which provides network management software and is the subject of a Wikipedia article. And Google search results often lead right back to Wikipedia, he notes. 'We track where our customers come from, and there is no question that Wikipedia is a driver.'
Getting into Wikipedia
If getting into Wikipedia is highly desirable, it also seems close to impossible to many companies who've tried it -- including PacketTrap. 'We went about it the wrong way,' Goodman says. 'Three months after launching, we began persistently putting up pages about ourselves and the feedback we got was that it wasn't relevant, and that you are not supposed to create an article about your own company. We were called a ‘candidate for speedy deletion.'' In fact, PacketTrap executives never succeeded in getting into Wikipedia -- they merely stopped trying. About six months later, an article about PacketTrap appeared, and Goodman still doesn't know who put it there.
'Wikipedia is a complex culture, and sometimes it can feel like the free encyclopedia everyone can edit -- except me,' acknowledges Jay Walsh, a spokesperson for the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that oversees Wikipedia. He notes that Wikimedia has only about 30 paid staff, and that Wikipedia is edited by a huge number of volunteers. And he says, though it's not an absolute rule, people are strongly discouraged from creating articles about themselves or their organizations because the site strives for neutrality.
If you want your organization to be listed in Wikipedia, Walsh and others who've succeeded recommend the following steps: