Yesterday at SocialTimes, I mentioned that if you or your product don’t have a Wikipedia page, some could argue that you don’t exist. I don’t think I would go that far, but it’s certainly true that you wouldn’t exist to lazy reporters out there. And if you don’t exist to them, it’s less likely that they will cover the thing you’re asking them to cover. If you have a Wikipedia page, even if the reporter just regurgitates stuff from that page in order to do their story, the presence of the Wikipedia page can be the deciding factor between you getting coverage and you getting ignored.
That’s why it’s important to have a Wikipedia page. Because once you do have one, you’re able to help control the story that’s being told about you and your product. For example, if you were feeling devious, you could plant something into the page that’s not entirely true, then have the reporter repeat that not true thing in their story. Then, you can add the citation of that reporter repeating that not true thing to your Wikipedia page, making that untrue thing a true thing. This happens more than you’d think.
Not that any of you would ever THINK to do something like that … Right? Right. I’m going to assume you want a Wikipedia page for good reasons. Primarily because you want to help get yourself and your product some coverage and not because you’re looking to manipulate people for evil.
How do you get a Wikipedia page? Especially one that will stick and survive the review process? Anyone, and I mean anyone, can go in there and create a page, but the odds are it’ll be deleted before long, usually because the page won’t meet Wikipedia’s “notability guidelines”. Solving Wikipedia’s “stickiness problem” is what I’m going to focus on here. That’s because whether you know someone who is a Wikipedia editor, you’ve paid to have a page created for you, or in the rare but preferable event, a Wikipedia editor has taken it upon themselves to create a page for you, it doesn’t matter how the page comes about. What matters is getting the page to stick once it has been entered into the system. And how you get that page to stick is by meeting the notability guidelines of the site.
So once you’ve figured out how to get that page created, you immediately have to deal with Wikipedia’s “stickiness problem”.
You need to do two things to make sure your Wikipedia page sticks:
1. The need to use neutral language in your Wikipedia article should be obvious. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, the entries shouldn’t read as advertisements. Self-explanatory, right? So any page created should be neutral. And what that means is that nothing in it should be promotional or self-serving. Think Joe Friday asking for just the facts. That’s all that should go into any page on Wikipedia, not just yours. And facts are neutral. Sure you could be selective, but that’s not a wise decision. If you look at my Wikipedia page, you can see it talks about my heart attack, my divorce, and getting banned from Alfred State College’s campus radio station, WETD, in 2002. Or perhaps more embarrassing, how I once had to take a job as a Mall Santa in Queensbury, New York. These are not things I go around discussing with people or ever bring up, but they’re facts that are mentioned in numerous places accessible by the public, so I can’t hide them either. Wikipedia pages are meant to read like an encyclopedia, and so all the facts, both good and bad, should be included in any page that’s created. So that’s what it means when I say “neutral language” here. You’re just presenting facts, and you’re telling a complete story with those facts, warts and all. And if you’re uncomfortable with that, you shouldn’t be. Don’t ever try to bury something you don’t want people to find because they will find it, and when they do, it’ll be ten times worse. Especially if a lazy reporter finds it and thinks they might be able to squeeze some page views out of embarrassing you for their website.
If you really want (or in this case, need) a Wikipedia page, this is the cost of doing business.
2. Where everyone messes up most when it comes to creating a Wikipedia page that’s going to stick is rounding up sources that Wikipedia would say are credible. And the truth is, you just might not have a lot of credible sources out there about you. The only way to fix that is with good publicity, and that’s a topic for another time. But let’s say you have had some press coverage about either you or your project. The general rule of thumb I’ve found is that the bigger the media outlet, the more successful that source will be in terms of it being defined as credible. So if you were in your local newspaper, like The Glens Falls Post-Star, that’s more useful than if you were interviewed on some random blog. Traditional media trumps online media within Wikipedia, and the larger the traditional media outlet, the more likely it is that the information you include from it will stick. So the more of those credible sources that you have, the more likely it is that your page is going to stick because those outlets are credible and you’ll have plenty of information to source your facts from. There are other places that count as quality sources of information, like IMDB, and there are some obvious exceptions to the traditional media rule like The Huffington Post, but I’m looking to present you with a strategy that’ll work consistantly.
(A good test to use: Does the average person know of the media outlet you’re citing? Or is it reasonable to assume that they would know? If so, the source is credible and can be used. If not, find another one and use the questionable source only after you have enough credible sources to use to build your page.)
I would say you don’t even want to bother going near Wikipedia until you have ten, solid, credible sources. Then you can fill in those other ten with links to your own website, some blogs, and other things that might not necessarily get your page to stick on their own, but help fill out the information that you have if you have enough sources to get the page accepted.
You also want to absolutely avoid using anything that remotely appears to be biased. So while your site may be ok, your friend’s site or a business that you own whose website is writing about you may not be. One thing you can, and should do, is get transcripts of any interview that you do that’s audio or video based. It can get pricey, which is why I haven’t done it too much, but taking those transcripts and posting them on your site with a link back to the original is important for a couple of reasons. First, you can’t assume that this piece of multimedia is going to be online forever. I did a sit down interview with Yahoo! Finance with Aaron Task and the video vanished after three months. So having those transcripts is good just for that purpose alone, but in terms of Wikipedia, being able to directly quote the interview will help you present factual, and credible, information that will aid in the creation and sticking of your page. So if you haven’t been doing it in the past, start documenting and transcribing the multimedia interviews that you do now.
That brings us to the last point, which is often a major hassle in terms of creating Wikipedia pages: Pictures. Specifically, getting the expressed written permission from photographers (if you even remember who took the picture) in order to get your pictures added to your page. The work around to this is as easy as it is troublesome for people who might be particularly possessive with their copyright. If you noticed, here at SocialTimes we use pictures that we find on Flickr. Included with the picture at the end of the post is a note that says, “Photo Credit: Some Guy on Flickr”, replacing some guy or some girl with that person’s username and a link back to them. We’re able to do this because the photos are available for use through Creative Commons, which is where content producers post their stuff that they don’t mind anyone using as long as they provide a link back and don’t make a quick buck off it. (Or in some cases, allow the content to be used regardless of whether or not someone would make a quick buck off of it.) Since everything on Wikipedia is public domain, the photos also have to be public domain, or at least be close enough to it, which is where Creative Commons comes into play. So once you have those ten solid, credible, sources, you should take the photo (or photos) you want to use on your page (or would like someone to use if you’re approached about a page for yourself or project) and then upload them to Flickr. Once they’re on Flickr, you can mark them as being available to use via Creative Commons.
I’ve provided you with a lot of information here. Enough so that you don’t necessarily need to hire someone like Wiki-PR to create and maintain a Wikipedia page for you. That doesn’t mean you don’t need those services, but I think what I’ve laid out here is a win for everyone. It gives you a guideline on how to build a Wikipedia page that would meet their notability guidelines, and at the same time for Wikipedia this method would ensure that good quality and worthwhile information is being entered into their system without it (necessarily) being paid for.
Good luck, and look out for the backlog for when your Wikipedia page is submitted. It could take up to a month sometimes for a page to go through the review process.