Does Your Business Belong on Wikipedia?
You’ve heard it before: “Wikipedia is not a credible source.” Five years ago as a diligent college student, hunkered down at my corner library desk, I would have agreed with this statement. (Side note: yes, only five years ago. Stop judging.) But after having many clients ask me, “Should my company have a Wikipedia page?” I now beg to differ.
With the amount of time, research, and editing that goes into creating a new Wikipedia page from scratch, you might as well be hunkered down at your own library desk, writing a final term paper with at least seven credible, third-party sources cited in a detailed bibliography. If you’re thinking about creating one for your own business, be prepared to work. Take it from someone who knows: venturing into the world of Wikipedia is not for the faint of heart.
Is Wikipedia Right For My Business?
If you’re a small mom-and-pop business with no digital footprint, probably not. Lest we forget, Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia; its purpose is to provide factual information on a topic of interest. It’s not here to tell everyone how great you are. We’re proud of you for having recently celebrated your fifth anniversary or having the best ham sandwich in town, but if you don’t have any of the following, you won’t have any luck on Wikipedia:
1. A Strong PR Presence: This goes a long way. Wikipedia relies on citations by credible, third-party sources in order for content to be published. “Best prices in town, 10/10 would shop again” by Anonymous User on Yelp ain’t gonna cut it. If you already have a good stockpile of articles published about your business, you’ve got a good head-start.
**Pro Tip: A credible, third-party source is not StillettoSportingMommyBlogger.com. Try local and/or national news publications, magazines, or well-known media websites to get your content published.
2. A Notable Employee: This one’s a hit or miss. If the head of your company has already gained their own notoriety, and this fame plays a major part in the business, Wikipedia may accept the article for publication. However, if their notoriety is far removed from the operations of the company, Wikipedia may suggest creating a page for them and including your business as a portion of that article instead.
3. A New Product or Idea: This goes hand-in-hand with having a strong PR presence. If your business is promoting a brand new product or idea that is new or “ground-breaking” in your industry, you may be an eligible candidate for a successful Wikipedia page.
Bottom line, if you attempt to create a page for self-promotional reasons, spouting information that cannot be backed up anywhere online, Wikipedia’s Editors will find you, and they will end you. Ok, you, personally, are safe — but your page will not be.
Ok, I Think I Fit These Categories. Now What?
I’ll break the news to you now: Don’t spend hours writing a heartfelt memoir about your business’s many accomplishments and journeys (unless you have the sources to back it up, of course). Wikipedia’s got guidelines, and they are lengthy. Check this out. And this one. Don’t worry, there are more, but here are some highlights:
- As stated before, content must be 100% unbiased. Opinions are unwelcome.
- Facts must be backed up by credible, third-party sources (newspapers, books published by large publishing houses, magazines, peer-reviewed scholarly articles, etc.). No anecdotal evidence allowed.
- If you want to upload a photo, you must own it or use Wikipedia Commons.
- Self-promotion is a guaranteed method of getting your article banished by the Editors.
- Basically, don’t use any adjectives to describe your business. “Sal’s Sandwich Shop makes sandwiches so delicious, you’ll slap yo’ mama” is obviously a claim that cannot be backed up unless first published in Orlando Weekly.
Wikipedia’s guidelines are long and detailed, but you have to follow them or doom your hard work to Wikipedia purgatory with the rest of the articles that did not meet the Editors’ strict standards.
I Still Think I Qualify. How Do I Get Started?
My first tip here is to hire someone to do it for you. You know how “entry-level” jobs require five-plus years of industry experience? Wikipedia is pretty much the same way. Your articles/edits are more likely to be approved if you’ve got a lot of wiki-editing history on your resume. But if you insist on trying for yourself, here are some need-to-knows:
- Create an Account: You have to sign in in order to edit or create a page. Your account has to be under an individual’s name — it cannot be under your company’s.
- Learn Wikipedia’s Guidelines: Just throwing this in there again because, trust me, you have to know what you’re doing before you jump in.
- Learn Wikipedia’s Editor & Language: Yep, Wikipedia has its own editor system that works in unique ways. There are templates for different kinds of pages and they even have their own markup language (wikitext).
- Be Wary of Launch: Whatever you do, do not hit publish on your page until you have ensured that everything is correct and had at least two other people do so as well. As soon as your page is made available for public consumption, the Editors will emerge.
I think it’s important to take a moment to discuss the Editors. Much respect should be given to them, as they are the Wikipedia Gods, deciding the worth of pages with the click of a mouse or tap of a finger. Anybody can become a Wikipedia God, but it takes five-plus years of industry experience and three credible references. It’s better to just hire someone who knows the ropes — trust me.
Wikipedia: An Awesome Resource, but Not Worth it for Everyone
If you’ve got the goods, Wikipedia can help out your business online. While it doesn’t give you any backlink authority (links to your website are marked as “no follow”), Wikipedia is an extremely high-trafficked website that will increase your own website’s visibility in search engines. Google pretty much anything and there, sitting at spot two, three or sometimes even one, will be a Wikipedia article just waiting to be cited on college students’ term papers.
But if you remember anything, remember this: Wikipedia sounds like “encyclopedia” for a reason. You won’t open up the Encyclopedia Brittanica and find “Eat at Sal’s Sandwich Shop for Sandwiches So Good You’ll Slap Yo’ Mama” on page 445. The same thing goes for Wikipedia; it is not a platform for advertising your business with self-promotional material. Do yourself a favor and think about the tips above before opening yourself to possible Wiki-page heartbreak.