Almost anybody can post or edit an article on Wikipedia, the internet's free encyclopedia and the ninth most popular site in the world. But having an article accepted by the site and controlling what others say about your company is an entirely different matter--just ask Baynote co-founder and CEO Jack Jia. In early 2007, Baynote's internet marketing manager submitted an article about the company, a multimillion-dollar developer of software for business websites and web applications. The site's editors deleted the entry almost immediately. Jia was a bit surprised but let the matter drop--until his director of marketing and product management, Mike Svatek, convinced him they should try again.
In July, Svatek wrote a new article about the Cupertino, California, company, keeping it factual and neutral in tone (both core Wikipedia requirements) and including a number of trustworthy secondary sources to demonstrate Baynote's "notability"--the number-one requirement for inclusion. Again, the article was nominated for deletion. This time, though, Baynote participated in the online discussion. The outcome? The article was approved.
And Baynote, which Jia founded in 2004 with technology veterans Scott Brave, 33, and Rob Bradshaw, 44, learned a valuable lesson. "If there's a debate going on, you have to get people involved," says Jia, 44.
Indeed, getting involved is the key to successfully managing your company's reputation on Wikipedia. "You have to participate in the Wikipedia community, post messages and reach common ground with [other] members," explains Jason Baer, vice president of strategy for Off Madison Ave, a marketing communications firm that has an article on Wikipedia and monitors the site on behalf of several clients.
When requesting a change, you need to be open and honest about why you want the change and ground your argument in Wikipedia's policies, which are listed on the site. Give one person in your company the authority to make changes--preferably a competent writer who can devote time to understanding the site's unique community culture.
Baynote's internet marketing manager now checks the article every few days to keep an eye on modifications. "Prospects who have heard of Baynote often go to Wikipedia to read about us," says Jia. "Then they go to our website. That is worth as much as, if not more than, having an article written about you."
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff writes about business and technology and has a link on Wikipedia.