Wikipedia and Brand Reputation

By: Francesco Frenna, Social Media & Digital Account Manager

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, has become an omnipresent online fixture over the years. Its merits are best summarized by Jimmy Wales, co-founder of the 18-year-old organization.

“Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.”

Given the crowdsourced nature of its content, the reliability of Wikipedia is regularly called into question. Regardless, Wikipedia consistently appears among the top five search results for most topics and the amount of misinformation on the platform is decreasing every day thanks to the vigilance of Wikipedia contributors.

But what does Wikipedia represent on a worldwide scale? How does it work? And how can we optimize it for the betterment of a brand or public personality?

The Reach and Impact of Wikipedia 

Wikipedia’s vast global reach gives insight into its power. Created in 2001, Wikipedia is ranked in the top three of almost all Google search results. On average, it attracts 530 million unique viewers per month globally, and offers, in total, 30 million articles in 280 languages. Tens of thousands of new articles are added each day. In Canada alone, there were 436 million page views last month. And major companies have taken notice.

Capabilities for Personal Branding and Reputation Management

Due to the sheer reach of its platform and the volume of content generated by users, companies and individuals can’t overlook Wikipedia when it comes to managing brand reputation.

It’s in a brand’s best interest to ensure that its Wikipedia page reflects reality and is not polluted with potentially damaging fake news. Key ways to maintain confidence in the platform include regular monitoring of relevant Wikipedia pages and setting up online content monitors for relevant or sensitive topics.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Wikipedia is not a press release platform, or a space to promote brand messaging. Rather, it is designed as an impartial, neutral source of information. Any edits and updates to a page must be made in compliance with Wikipedia’s strict rules and community guidelines.

Following Wikipedia Guidelines

Anyone can update a Wikipedia page to add content, correct a mistake, improve style, and more. But be warned – your edits will be swiftly removed if you do not follow the platform’s strict rules. Edits need to be “verified” in order to remain live.

This is why, for several years, MSL has been committed to understanding and practicing Wikipedia’s terms of use by being transparent and accurate with any changes we may implement to the online encyclopedia.

We consider five fundamental guidelines when we create new Wikipedia content:

1. A neutral point of view
2. No commercial promotion
3. Contributions based on known and verifiable external sources
4. Respect for copyright
5. Respect for contributors

The most common content edits fall into three categories:

1. Modifying minor and factual changes (e.g. updating a company’s sales revenue using reputable financial media as source)

2. Submitting major changes to the Wikipedia community for approval (e.g. the addition of a paragraph about a new CEO to a company article)

3. Integrating a new picture of a company or a personality on Wikimedia Commons (e.g. uploading a new logo after a rebranding)

This list is not exhaustive, but offers a snapshot of some of MSL’s most common practical uses of Wikipedia for brand work.

Key Takeaways

Wikipedia is an often-overlooked platform, but it’s an important tool with a broad reach that clients should consider for any digital branding or reputation management strategy.

1. For brands, the main goal is to ensure that all information is true and regularly updated, especially considering the number of stakeholders who potentially visit Wikipedia each day (i.e., consumers, journalists, influencers, etc.)

2. Editing Wikipedia articles is based on open, honest and documented discussion. Participants must always be civil, helpful and consensus-seeking. That is why MSL is always transparent about our participation on the platform.

3. Updating a page to one’s advantage by using exaggerated messaging or overly positive language is strongly discouraged. It’s contrary to the spirit of Wikipedia, and those who do so risk being dismissed from the platform.

Becoming a savvy Wikipedia user is a full-time job. Methodology, rigor, reflection and discussion are essential.

To learn more about how to include Wikipedia in your brand positioning or executive reputation management strategies, contact the Digital Team at MSL Canada: canada@mslgroup.com.

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