Wikipedia and Associations – What You Need to Know

When you think of Wikipedia, what do you think of? Thousands of articles describing famous people, places, and things? Millions of people editing and reading every day? A critical pillar of your marketing strategy?

If that last question threw you off, it shouldn’t. Wikipedia is the second most visited website in the world.  

  • It almost always ranks in the top 3 on Google for any keyword, person, or place
  • It gets 230+ million pageviews a day
  • There are over 880 million unique devices visiting every month
  • It takes up the vast majority of the top right side of Google

Potential customers, investors, and members are absolutely going to check out your Wikipedia page. In fact, that page might be the first place they go to for information about your association. So, if you’ve let your page languish without attention, or if you don’t even have a page, you are missing out on a marketing opportunity.

Don’t worry, that’s something you can change. By the end of this post, you’ll have a clear understanding of exactly what it takes to successfully create and/or edit a Wikipedia article.

Table of Contents

What Does it Take?

Wikipedia articles do take time – both to create and to edit. This is largely because control of your page isn’t entirely in your hands. There could be people out there who don’t like your association, people who are just looking to mess around, or people overly focused on any controversies or bad press you might have had. Whatever the case, it can be an ongoing challenge to get what you’d consider to be fair or good coverage.

In addition, you can’t copy+paste your “About Us” page from your website onto Wikipedia and call it a day. Wikipedia has copyright rules, and rules against using content that is too promotional. You’ll need to craft new, well-sourced, objective content before Wikipedia will take you seriously.

Finally, Wikipedia has notability guidelines. This means that anyone creating a new page has to prove that the topic is important enough to merit a page – i.e. that it is covered extensively by trusted, third-party sources. Make sure that there are enough reliable news sources covering your association before you jump into drafting a page.

This all might sound tedious (and it can be) but it is worth it. Remember, 230+ million views a day and top billing on Google. Plus, people who know Wikipedia’s rules trust it. Take advantage of this and use it to share what’s important about your association.

Wikipedia’s Official Rules

Okay, what else do you need to know? Wikipedia has a lot of guidelines, but here are the five most important ones to keep in mind:

  • Assume Good Faith: work with the assumption that other editors are making edits and comments in good faith.
  • Neutral Point of View: don’t use adjectives such as best, only, or first in the world unless you can really, truly, objectively prove that it’s true.
  • Copyrights: don’t try and copy anything word-for-word from your website, a press release, or another source.
  • Reliable Sources: this one can make things complicated. You can’t use anything that comes officially from your association (think press releases, websites, and annual reports), or anything that comes from a blog or other non-fact-checked source. Sources must be reputable and from a third-party. Focus on sources like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and academic journals.
  • Verifiability: other users must be able to easily check that the information you’re citing comes from a reliable source. This means that you’ll want to avoid using sources that are only found in another language or that lie behind a paywall.

A sixth rule would be, as we mentioned above, Notability.

Can I edit the page myself?

With all that in mind, is it within the guidelines to edit/create your association’s page yourself? This is Wikipedia’s official take: You are discouraged from writing articles about yourself or organizations (including campaigns, clients, products, and services) in which you hold a vested interest. However, if you feel there is material within an existing article which is incorrect, or not neutral in its tone, you should point this out on the article’s talk page.

Wikipedia wants to be unbiased, so it frowns on vested parties editing/creating their own pages. Before you decide to work on your association’s page yourself, consider the risk of getting called out. Conflict of Interest is frowned upon, and pages in violation will be marked with a COI flag. Flags are at the top of a page, making them the first thing that anyone sees.

If you’re wondering how Wikipedia would know, there are a few different ways. One, your IP address and/or username are recorded whenever you make an edit. This information can be seen by anyone who visits your article’s History page, so it is never a good idea to edit using an IP address owned by your association. Two, many people find that they really can’t write objectively about their association. If the language seems too promotional or reads too much like an advertisement, this can make other editors suspicious.

You can ask other editors to edit your page or suggest that an article featuring your association be created. If you take this route, be sure to have verifiable and reputable sources lined up to back up the content that you want included.

First Steps, Second Steps, and Third Steps

Okay, with all that understood, let’s jump into the right way to work on a Wikipedia article.

First, you need to establish the lay of the land. Are you 100% sure that you don’t already have a Wikipedia page?  You’d be surprised by how many people we talk to who didn’t know they had a page until we found it. So, go and double check. If you really don’t have a page, take this time to check out some competitor’s pages to get an idea of what they include and how they are organized. In associations, it’s common to see section titles such as:

  • History 
  • Structure and Governance/Organization
  • Activities
  • Affiliates
  • Awards
  • Areas of Service
  • Funding

If you have a Wikipedia page, check out its revision history. When was the last time that it was edited?  Is the same editor visiting the page frequently? You need to know how much scrutiny your page is under. The more people that have eyes on your page, the harder it can be to make edits.

Second, determine exactly what you want to add. What are your must-haves, your nice-to-haves, and your absolute long-shots? Do you need to update your association’s recent history? Add a new affiliate? Any edits should focus on adding relevant content and correcting errors.

Third, research, research, research. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Everything that you add needs to be factual and well-sourced. Spend some serious time researching to ensure that you can back up whatever you want to add. Once you’ve done the research, start drafting your ideal page using those sources. Remember – do not use language that will be considered promotional.

Why is it Alright for My Competitor to Call Themselves “The World’s Foremost Providers of Everything Good”?

Maybe we’re exaggerating here, but we’re sure that you’ve seen pages that seem as promotional as that. So, what gives? The short answer is that your competitor is extremely lucky that their page hasn’t been flagged or outright deleted. Trust us though – it is only a matter of time. When a Wikipedia editor sees what your competitor is doing, their page will be smacked with at least one flag, if not several. The page could also be recommended for deletion. 

Getting a page reinstated after this point is extremely difficult. Not impossible, but an already challenging process becomes infinitely more so. This is not a road you want to travel down. Follow Wikipedia’s guidelines and avoid this kind of conflict.

What if Trouble Strikes?

Hopefully, your association’s page will lead a quiet existence, untouched by any issues. It’s best to plan for the opposite though, so that you aren’t caught unawares. Common challenges include:

  • False and biased information added: while you should assume good faith, there is a possibility that someone could edit without good intentions
  • Big, big controversies: if your association or CEO makes the news in a negative way, it’s all too likely for that story to immediately take over your page
  • Edit wars: your page might attract an editor with very strong opinions about your association. Between them making edits and you fighting to get the edits reverted, an edit war can break out.
  • Edits at any time: once your page looks as close to your ideal as possible, the work isn’t over. Changes can be made at any time by anyone.

We Need Help!

We’ve got your back. We’re here to share everything that we’ve learned about Wikipedia and that includes how to overcome any challenges.

Each situation requires its own unique resolution, but there are some general guidelines that we think you should know:

  1. Use a Page Monitoring Tool: The benefit of a tool is that you’ll always know when your page gets updated. You have a few different options here:
    • Wiki Alert: Add an extension in your browser, hook it up to your Watchlist, and every time a page you follow is updated, you’ll get an alert in your browser.
    • Wikipedia’s Emailing Tool: Get alerted by Wikipedia anytime one of your tracked pages is edited. Visually, the Wikipedia tool is on the technical side, and each page can only be tracked by one account and one email address.
    • The Mather Group’s Emailing Tool: Our tool allows you to input your email address and track any pages that you’d like, without being tied to a single Wikipedia account. When one of your tracked pages is edited, we’ll send an email containing the visual differences of the page before and after the change.
  2. Keep a Stockpile of Information: In the chance that a controversy consumes your page, your best bet might be adding other content so that the controversy gets pushed farther down. Also be sure to check out the sources used for the controversial information. If the sources aren’t verifiable and reliable, or if the information quoted isn’t actually present, you can use that as a starting point to getting the information removed. If the content added is factual and well-sourced, it’s there to stay. Focus on what other information you can add to the page instead.
  3. Edit A Little at a Time: It’s best to follow the mantra “slow and steady wins the race,” when it comes to editing your page. You want to let information gradually trickle in. This gives you time to see how the information will be received. It’s easier to recover from having two sentences deleted, then it is from having two paragraphs deleted. This also holds true if you’re creating a page from scratch. Try getting two or three paragraphs published first, even if you have three pages of info that you’d like to see on the page.
  4. Disengage from Edit Wars: If you find yourself pulled into an edit war, back out. Nothing constructive is going to happen in this situation. Move the conversation to your article’s Talk Page and ask for others to weigh in and serve as mediators.
  5. Ask Questions: If you’re wondering why certain information is or isn’t on your page, or if you want something to be added, start a conversation on the Talk Page. Wikipedia editors aren’t paid, which means that they are generally editing because they really care about a topic and will want to answer your question.

Final Thoughts

If you have a lot of time and patience, you can navigate through this process on your own. If not, talk to someone who spends a lot of time working with Wikipedia challenges to get a realistic view of your situation. We’re always happy to answer any questions.

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