It’s time to own your Wikipedia listing — before others decide it’s theirs.
Go ahead, type in the name of any notable person, place or thing in the search engines. In nearly every case you will find a Wikipedia article in the top results.
Wikipedia is the search result king. Nothing comes close in scope or consistency when it comes to scoring top spots in the search engines. What does this mean for your company? A lot more than you may think.
The crowd-sourced encyclopedia known for quick facts on most any topic has become the de facto descriptive “homepage” for many direct selling companies and their executives. And it is often the very first thing about your company a newly introduced person will see.
A positive and well-written Wikipedia entry about your company can provide incredible benefits; on the flip side, a negative, promotional or poorly written entry can harm your company, often irreparably.
Wikipedia is written by volunteers and third parties.
The danger is that a random — or not so random — “contributor” creates the initial authorship of your page, leading to a more difficult time getting it edited and getting the edit to stick.
If you don’t yet have a Wikipedia article about your company, you probably will in due time. Why? Because your company is likely qualified as “notable” and a volunteer editor will, at some point, take on your review and write your first article. That person is likely unencumbered by any prior knowledge or affection for your company, or worse, they may already have negative notions about your company, your team or the business model in general.
Importantly, a Wikipedia article cannot be easily gamed and there are few solutions to repair a damaged entry. Online reputation management techniques, while effective for other links, is not effective with Wikipedia as it will almost always command a top spot in search. Once posted, it can be very difficult to have negative or erroneous information removed.
The importance of “Reliable Sources” and “Neutrality”
Anything negative that’s out there about your company or leaders in a “reliable source” will most likely end up in your article; it’s not a matter of “if” but “when”. Reliable sources include court documents, news coverage, research publications and established media (fortunately, forums or complaint sites like Ripoff Report or PissedConsumer, often a scourge of direct sellers, are not considered “reliable.” Whew!)
Get in front of your article.
It seems fair and logical that you should have a say in the direction of an article that professes to be your company’s defining (at least in Google’s eyes) portrayal to the world. You do, as much as anyone else does.
So, you want to go ahead and get in front of negative issues and frame them in the best possible way you can—without sounding like corporate PR spin. This means creating the initial article via a neutral party or, preferably a Wikipedia expert.
The importance of neutrality.
Wikipedia’s core policy states that articles must be written from a neutral point of view. The editors’ overall goal, besides the recreation and education that come with their work, is to make valuable contributions from a neutral point of view. They incorporate reliable sources, and never allow spam or selling in their entries, lest they be ridiculed by their peers. The Wikipedia community frowns upon anything promotional — their goal is accurate, fair and complete entries.
Whatever you edit is subject to review, criticism and/or claims of “shilling.” If you try to game it or even simply write up a nice positive-leaning article, you can and will be called out, and often it can reflect poorly on your organization. Wikipedia is populated with many negative entries of well-intentioned companies who had no clue what they were getting into, only to be chastened by a righteously indignant editorial community.
Related parties are verboten.
Do not just go and write yourself a “fair-sounding” positive review. It is better to have no entry than one created by salespeople or even anyone related to the business. What you need is an impartial editor with “no dog in the hunt”, preferably one that knows and appreciates your company.
You can request an article be written about your company. However, you should only do this if you have NO legal issues or negative press whatsoever, because it will likely be found and included, and you’ll lose most of your ability to influence how those things are positioned.
It’s all about influencing the direction and content of your Wikipedia article, but in a way that’s factual and relevant. Attempting to game it on your own without help could damage your company’s reputation, permanently.
Getting it right.
Offering up your top company search result to the Wikipedia gods can be intimidating, if a bit risky. We highly recommend you hire a professional consultant with specialization in Wikipedia to create and manage your Wikipedia effort. (We do this work, there are others out there as well). The placement of Wikipedia is just too important to your company’s marketing.