ONLINE MARKETING

Does your small business need a Wikipedia page?

 
John VanBeekum / Miami Herald

Special to the Miami Herald

Have you ever considered creating a Wikipedia page for your small business?

Wikipedia is undoubtedly one of the most popular websites. In fact, Wikipedia is the sixth most visited website on the Internet.

The multilingual online encyclopedia includes over 4.3 million articles in English alone. There is no advertising, and the site is free to use. The site is controlled by volunteer editors who review and edit each article submitted. The number of volunteer editors has fallen nearly 40 percent since 2007, according to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota, which means that fewer editors now have more pages to edit.

Anyone can edit an article on Wikipedia. But the myriad of rules that govern what types of articles can be created, how they are edited and what you can do if you are disputing what’s written is lengthy and often confusing. Nonetheless, many small businesses have tried to create Wikipedia pages about their companies, but not many have been successful in their endeavors.

Here’s what you need to know to help you navigate the world of Wikipedia if you’re considering it.

1. Your company may not be ‘notable’ enough.

One of the rules on Wikipedia that is very clear is who qualifies for a page. Not everyone can have one. Each Wikipedia must be “notable.” Among other things, notability is tied to the amount of media attention your company has received. So if your business has not been written about in the national media, your chances of developing a page that doesn’t get flagged for deletion aren’t good. Your business could be the most prominent, making millions of dollars and serving thousands of customers each year, but if your company hasn’t been mentioned on major news outlet, Wikipedia doesn’t consider it notable enough to warrant a page.

So before you set about creating your page, seek out new coverage from reputable media organizations. Think major magazines, national television news programs and respected industry publications, not your company blog, press releases you send out or your Twitter page.

• For more on Wikipedia’s notability guidelines, visit: http://en.wikipe dia.org/wiki/Wikipedia: Notability

2. Wikipedia is not an online directory or review site.

Wikipedia requires all pages to be written in a neutral point of view, so self-promotion isn’t tolerated. Every fact you site on your page should be backed up by a source to bolster credibility. Also, remember that Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, not an online directory or review site. Therefore, proffering your opinion about how great your company is or attempting to disparage your competition on your page will most likely get you flagged by a volunteer editor, who will in turn delete your page.

• To read Wikipedia’s neutrality policy, check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view

3. Be wary of who writes your page.

Businesses offering to develop a Wikipedia page for a fee are now more prolific than ever. Purveyors of these for-hire services claim to be experts in the site’s rules to get pages created and charge a fee for doing it.

“It is difficult and time consuming for non-experts, like small business owners to learn all for the requirements and technical jargon required for creating a Wikipedia,” said Alex Konanykhin, CEO of www.WikiExperts.us. “Firms like ours know the rules that govern Wikipedia's writing style, their format, content inclusion criteria and other rules.”

But while businesses like WikiExperts, MyWikiPro and others are proliferating at a rapid rate, Wikipedia is leery of pages written by public relations professionals on behalf of clients, paid writers and the like because it goes against their policy of neutrality. Wikipedia’s editors recently discovered thousands of pages written by one PR firm, prompting many to ask whether the site is really written by editors-for-hire and not unbiased volunteers.

Before enlisting the services of firm to write your page for you, try doing it yourself first. Make sure you can back up each of the facts with a reputable source. Be sure to create an account before you upload your page content, too.

4. Talk before EditING

Once you’ve uploaded your page to Wikipedia, you might want to edit it — that is, change the wording of your article — at some point. Don’t edit the page directly. Instead, go to the “Talk” page of the entry. Each page uploaded to Wikipedia has a discussion section where you can post ideas about what you think should be edited. For a specific edit, post a request. In it, post links to your reputable sources and provide an explanation of why the edit will help to improve the page. Be sure to sign your posts with your account name. A Wikipedia editor will see your request and either post it or not.

• To find out more about how Wikipedia Talk pages work, visit: http://en.wiki pedia.org/wiki/Help: Using_talk_pages

5. Avoid ‘edit wars’

Not everyone agrees with every edit on a page, so if you’ve managed to get a Wikipedia on your company accepted by the site, you can expect that others will have an opinion about it. If you see that false information is being posted on your page that is defamatory, don’t edit it. Instead, post on the “Talk” page of the entry and bring it to the attention of the site’s editors. Engaging in a war by editing what others post on the page could get you banned from the site and your page deleted.

• To learn more about Wikipedia’s policy on “edit-warring,” check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi kipedia:Edit_warring

Still think having your own Wikipedia is right for you? Check out the Starting Gate blog for more advice.

Tasha Cunningham is a principal in the Cunningham Group, a communications firm with offices in Miami and Orlando.

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