Everybody knows that the first place someone looks for quick and easy information on the internet is Wikipedia but what they do not know is that it is also quickly becoming a very effective, yet difficult to master public relations tool.
The simple fact is that besides a company web site, most people get basic and immediate information about businesses, people or organizations by doing a Google search, which almost always results in the massive online encyclopedia being thrust to the top of the page or at least very near it.
When I first started working for Abbi Public Relations I was given the daunting task of becoming an expert at getting our clients on this very popular and widely used information medium, which is understandable considering that a strong web presence is crucial to the success any business or organization.
In order to have the most success, I began reading everything that I possibly could about the site and how to add additional articles into the mix. I quickly found that Wikipedia is not as editable and inaccurate as most college professors might want people to believe. Every single sentence, every single date, and every single piece of information has to be properly backed up by sources from news, books, magazines, documents, and legitimate web sites otherwise it is erased.
I wanted to test this so I made a mock account and began going through and leaving small and subtle changes on various pages. The next day I checked these pages and everything was back to its original form. I quickly found out that Wikipedia’s volunteers were a force to be reckoned with and catch almost every single mistake and/or unfounded claim.
I then wanted to test exactly what they consider to be “Wiki-worthy” by creating an article about myself. I figured my persona would be perfect to test this on because there are legitimate online sources that can prove my existence and small things I have done with my college student government that I figured might make me seem important enough to be recognize in an encyclopedia.
After hours of learning how to properly cite sources to each and every individual sentence or statement as well as write the information in a completely non-promotional information based way, I finally had my own Wikipedia page. When I searched my name it immediately resulted in my Wikipedia page being placed at the top of the list. About two hours later I was given notice that the page I had created was “Tagged for speedy deletion” because of the simple fact that they did not see the importance in having information about me on Wikipedia. This made me realize how hard it would be to create articles about people who were not famous for something already and small businesses or organizations that are not currently well established. The next day I found that it had been completely erased.
After this I began to use our company login to make legitimate changes on small pieces of information on various clients’ pages like Terry and Thomas’ father Mills Lane that had already got into the mix because of his prior fame in the boxing world. I found that there was not any inaccurate information about Lane but it was missing some minor details about his career. I cited the sources for this information correctly and the edits are still up today.
With my previous mistakes noted I decided to begin creating an article for a client. My experiences with my mock account allowed me to realize that if you seem to be self-promoting in any way or make something seem more important than they think it is, your article will be quickly erased. I figured that if I am setting up the article for a weight loss company that is not well known it will seem to the Wikipedians that we are simply trying to promote it so I tried to go at it from another angle. The founder and medical expert for the company had written a few books so my angle was to inform people about an author that had written multiple books and founded a weightless company. Now if someone was interested in the company or the people who run it, this will be the first image in their head besides the company web site itself.
I still have never figured out exactly who Wikipedia considers important enough to be a part of their encyclopedia, but what I do know is that if it seems to be informing people of something other than the mere existence of an individual or start up business it usually flies.