Author: Doug Magee
Most of the discussion about online communications by organizations focuses primarily on websites, blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. You seldom hear any discussion about the importance of Wikipedia. I know I didn't until I read an interesting blog post by Katie Paine, CEO and founder of KD Paine & Partners, LLC. Paine is an expert in measuring relationships and organizational accountability.
She summarized some fascinating research presented recently by Marcia Watson DiStaso (Penn State) and Marcus Messner (Virginia Commonwealth University) about how Wikipedia impacts reputation and public relations (The Corporate Image on Wikipedia in a Turbulent Economy). This study is based on the premise that Wikipedia goes beyond providing simple reference material to the formation of public opinion by providing extensive, timely information. This year's tracking study looked at the Wikipedia pages of major corporations including Chevron, GM and Wal-Mart.
DiStaso's and Watson's 2010 results indicate it has become even more critical over the last few years to pay attention to Wikipedia, primarily because of the site's influence on search engine results. The research shows Wikipedia continues to grow in importance and can dominate search results within Yahoo!, Google and MSN. The research even looked at how public opinion informs Wikipedia pages, both in the number of edits an organization's page receives and the number of unique users.
Another recently released study about Wikipedia came to a similar conclusion. In its analysis of the top 500 pages on Wikipedia, Lundquist, an online corporate communications consultancy in Italy said, "...To improve their online presence companies must engage with Wikipedia, not back away as is often assumed."
Wikipedia may not be on your horizon yet. Or perhaps you view it primarily as reference material. But as its impact continues to grow, engaging with Wikipedia is preferable to doing nothing.