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Post: How To Work With Wikipedia Editors To Update Content



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Wikipedia calls itself “the free encyclopedia anyone can edit.”

But any marketer who’s tried to edit their brand-related pages knows that the tagline isn’t complete. It should be “the free encyclopedia anyone can edit even though their changes might be rejected.”

Wikipedia’s editors frequently decline to make changes to brand pages because the person who submitted the edit request challenges its conflict of interest guidelines, which discourage someone with a financial connection to the topic from making direct changes to that article.

@Wikipedia editors frequently decline to make changes to brand pages because the requester has a conflict of interest, says @WilliamBeutler via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

But if you can make a persuasive case that the published article fails to meet the site’s own standards – and suggest a clear improvement – you likely can get a fair hearing from a Wikipedia editor.

If your budget doesn’t allow for hiring a reputable consultant or agency to help, you can follow these seven tips on the rules of engagement and improve the chances your content edits will be approved by Wikipedia editors who work as volunteers.

These seven tips on @Wikipedia rules of engagement can help improve the chances of approval for brand-related content edits, says @WilliamBeutler via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

TIP: Use these documents as a reference point to Wikipedia’s policy – plain and simple conflict of interest guide and help available for editors with conflicts of interest.

1. Choose an appropriate username

When registering an account for your employer, Vandelay Industries, you might consider acknowledging the conflict in your username by using something like VandelayIndustries or VandelayExportImport. You’re thinking correctly about disclosure, but you’re also violating a rule – Wikipedia prohibits shared accounts and can block accounts whose names merely imply they are shared.

In this case, ArtatVandelayIndustries will work better. Truthfully, so will something random, like ShaquilleOatmeal, but it’s probably wiser to pick something more professional.

2. Disclose your conflict in advance

Disclose your relevant financial connections in two places.

On your account profile or user page, write something simple and straightforward identifying your employer, client, or other affiliation. It’s not a bad idea to mention that you follow Wikipedia’s rules, especially the one about not making direct changes to articles. A little self-awareness goes a long way.

On the discussion page of the article where you want changes, complete the connected contributor (paid) template and place it at the top of the article’s talk page.

3. Declare the conflict in your message

Detailing your conflict of interest (COI) once does not mean you’re all set. Make note of this fact every time you post a new request for assistance. Editors who come across this edit request might not look at your user page or the top of the article and might feel misled if you don’t acknowledge your connection in the first message on the thread.

Include your conflict of interest every time you post a new request for assistance from a Wikipedia editor, says @WilliamBeutler via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

You don’t need to mention your COI in every message. But any time you post on a new discussion page or reach out to an editor with whom you haven’t traded messages, do not assume they know who you are or who you represent. It’s your responsibility to make sure volunteer editors are aware of your connections. If editors feel they are misled, they will not be willing to work with you.

4. Don’t write long editing requests

It’s not uncommon to see a brand representative start out well on Wikipedia. They choose a good username and make the proper disclosures. Then, everything falls apart when they post a novella of an edit request, sometimes asking for all of their desired changes to be reviewed at once.

Think about each edit suggestion for the page. Consider how long it will take to explain each one. Make your best guess about how much effort is required from the Wikipedia volunteer editor who generously agrees to review it. These editors are doing you a favor by taking time out of their own projects, and they are not getting paid, so it’s important to respect their time. Parcel your requests, see one through to its conclusion, and then move to the next one.

You should also learn the basics of Wikipedia formatting (here is a handy guide) and make sure your requests are presented clearly. One thing to keep in mind: Bulleted or numbered lists can be especially helpful for making complicated requests easier to follow.

5. Cite policies and guidelines

When posting an edit request, it can help to identify which policies and guidelines aren’t being followed in the current version. Is the article using low-quality sources to verify sketchy material? See if the reliable sources guideline has provisions that help bolster your case. Is the article giving too much space to a minor aspect of the topic? Check out the due and undue weight guideline to see if it applies.

You may have to dig: Wikipedia has literally hundreds of different policies and guidelines setting the rules for what counts as encyclopedic content. While you surely don’t have time to learn them all, it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the most important ones.

6. Use the conflict-of-interest request template

When you post any request, include an edit request template at the top of the email – below the subject line and above the request. The Edit COI template comes with a simple set of instructions for using it properly. This step will place it into an edit request queue, which collects open edit requests posted by contributors with a declared COI.

While you are not required to use this template, don’t be surprised if you ask an editor for help and they tell you to use the template. This way, volunteers who want to spend time answering edit requests can find yours and consider responding.

TIP: Don’t request an editor agree with you, but ask them to exercise their judgment.

7. Be polite and patient

Last but certainly not least, even when asking for simple changes, know they will probably take longer than you want. A well-known Wikipedia essay states: There is no deadline. Wikipedia editors do not operate on your external schedule, and urging them to hurry will not make them more likely to work with you.

Be patient and give the edit request queue a chance to work. Wait a week. Then, if you haven’t heard from anyone, it’s OK to directly ask other editors for help. Ask for help in just one place at a time and wait up to a week before trying somewhere else.

In this way and many others, understanding how Wikipedia editors view their work and want to do things is to your benefit. If you can figure out how your goals also advance Wikipedia’s goals, you stand a good chance of getting your requests answered.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Lora Helmin

Lora Helmin

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