Like it or not, the Wikipedia open-source phenomenon looms large right where companies are increasingly spending billions of dollars to jockey for position: on search-engine results pages.This is one of those instances of social media marketing - like creating a fake identity on MySpace or even more current, like the YouTube/LonelyGirl15 stunt that's in the news (see LonelyGirl15's Online Diary Is the Birth of a New Art Form) - in which any disingenuous tinkering by corporations will be sniffed out and could negatively affect the brand.
In all seriousness, as soon as brand managers learn where they stand on Wikipedia, there is a natural inclination to want to control it. Some, in fact, actively police it. After all, anyone can. But doing so is asking for trouble.
By all means, it's important to monitor your company's reputation on a variety of sources. But be careful about how you get involved in the conversation. For too long, marketers have been accustomed to controling the message as a one-way push of information.
Now that we're engaging our audience in true conversations with powerful online tools, the temptation is to use those tools to try to control the message as best we can. Ignore that temptation. Let the conversations happen. Monitor them. Respond to them. But don't jump back into your old role.
We had a debate here at the agency about a month ago, trying to decide whether or not to include "Create a Wikipedia Entry" as part of our Top 5 Social Media Recommendations for a client who was considering options for organic growth of awareness. Eventually we opted to omit it as a recommendation.
Our reasoning was that the client already has content on the Web. Our job is to draw attention to it and let the conversations occur. Should a reader decide to create a wiki based on reading the content, then we would encourage the client to monitor and enhance the entry as appropriate. But we thought that it would be a mistake to lead off by creating one from scratch.
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