Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a financial marketer like the idea of a web page that’s out there in the world, purporting to encapsulate your brand – that you can’t control. Wikipedia spokesperson, Samantha Lien gives us the official line on Wikipedia and the options you have for massaging your page.
Appreciate the machine that is Wikipedia
The English language Wikipedia includes more than 5.4 million “articles” and averages 750 new articles per day. (For the purposes of your Wikipedia presence, “article” and “page” are interchangeable.)
16 years since the first article was published, Wikipedia is getting more than 5 million page views PER HOUR and is consistently in the top 10 most popular websites in the United States.
If you’re a financial services business in Australia – a big-four bank for example, your Wikipedia page might garner 8,000 to 16,000 views per month. (You can use this online measurement tool to compare the metrics of active pages. We used it here to compare the big four.)
Editors – the heart and soul of Wikipedia
Wikipedia is written by a community of volunteer editors from around the world. Each day, there are about 500,000 edits made to Wikipedia by more than 200,000 editors who contribute in a given month.
All editorial decisions, whether updates, deletions or notations, are made by these editors, who determine what content is included on Wikipedia and how that content is maintained.
“Over the years, this community of volunteer contributors has created various policies and guidelines to guide what content is included on Wikipedia and how,” says Samantha Lien, Communications Manager at the Wikimedia Foundation.
While there have been reported cases of rogue editors, vandals and trolls, most adhere to the “volunteer-developed notability requirements, and write from a neutral point of view, based on reliable sources that are independent of the subject of an article,” Lien says.
As Lien says, “Wikipedia aims to be a place where anyone can gain a general understanding of a topic and find more resources (through citations linked in the article) to learn about that topic.
“Because Wikipedia is written collaboratively by volunteers from around the world, the end result of an article tends to be a balanced view of what reliable sources say about a given topic,” she says.
It certainly does extremely well in search rankings. A 2012 study showed that Wikipedia articles appear on the first page of 99% of all Google searches and is the number one result for 56% of Google UK searches.
This search mastery has all happened organically Lien says. “As Wikipedia became more useful over the years, it surfaced higher in search results to help people find the most relevant information they need.”
Why Wikipedia can be threatening for a financial brand
When you’re used to being able to micro-manage every aspect of your brand’s presence online, your Wikipedia page might feel like a liability.
Every piece of news about your company, every event in your company’s timeline – positive or otherwise, can be published here. People who have had bad experiences with a brand (or who just want the truth to be told) may make it their business to add edits that reflect negatively on your brand. And you can’t stop it.
Working the Wikipedia machine
To make the most of Wikipedia you need to first appreciate how this community works and get into the headspace of a proud “Wikipedian”.
If you feel there are inaccuracies on your page, the Wikipedia company guidelines page explains how to use “talk” pages, which are attached to articles.
Talk pages provide templates to request additions or changes to your page. In the spirit of Wikipedia, you should be transparent about your position in the company and follow the paid editing policies. You also need to supply reliable third-party sources that support your requests.
“Similar to writing a research paper, providing sources and attributions is key to one of Wikipedia’s core pillars, verifiability – the idea that anyone can go back and evaluate that a piece of information comes from a reliable source,” Lien says.
If the talk page does not give the result you seek, you can try adding tags that show you question a particular source.
Notations made on your page
Looking at the Wikipedia pages of some financial services businesses you’ll see notations such as: “The neutrality of this article is disputed.” or “This article needs additional citations for verification.” or “A major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection with its subject.”
According to Lien, Wikipedia editors are constantly evaluating edits made to the site, and often use these messages at the top of an article to signal where further improvements could be made in that article.
“This allows other editors to see where their contributions might be most useful and also serves as a flag to readers of the article to use a critical eye when reading,” she says.
If a company or organisation sees a notice like this at the top of an article, they are again recommended to use the talk page to suggest edits, and again, disclose any affiliation with the company in the message, while including reliable sources.
“This allows editors to evaluate any new edits or changes transparently,” Lien says.
While there’s no guarantee you’ll get the amendments you want, Lien says that “the vast majority of contributions that don’t meet Wikipedia’s standards are removed quickly and the end result of an article tends to be a neutral, reliable representation of a topic.”
Unfortunately, when it comes to those parts of your page that contain unfavourable yet truthful content, this is an instance where you might just have to suck it up.
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