If you manage a brand of any importance, it is highly likely that the Wikipedia page pertaining to your brand is in the top search results at all the major search engines.
In April 2007, I studied the top 100 brands identified in the well-reputed Business Week list. Brand-related Wikipedia pages ranked an average of four on Google searches and five on Yahoo searches. This high visibility coupled with the aura of objectivity and authority that Wikipedia pages exude can mess up your online brand strategy.
Brand websites exist to build and reinforce a carefully crafted brand message, create a vivid brand personality, educate consumers about product benefits, build brand affinity, increase consumption and facilitate the creation of a brand community. Wikipedia pages have the potential to screw up the message and muddy the brand image that firms meticulously try to construct online.
Author notes: Sandeep Krishnamurthy is associate professor of e-commerce and marketing at University of Washington, Bothell. Read full bio.
On May 25, 2007, as shown in the screenshot below, the Budweiser page on Wikipedia was defiled by a random vandal. For a brief period of time, the flagship brand of Anheuser-Busch was said to "taste like ass." The brewery where Budweiser is made was described as "Tsaffaras Brewery," a brewery that does not exist.
This is, by no means, an isolated incident. On April 28, 2007, a phrase describing the taste of Budweiser as "camel piss" went unchanged for about seven hours.
Managers have a tough time believing that a community-oriented site run by volunteers can actually give the well-oiled machine of a corporation a run for its money. Yet, the evidence is in favor of Wikipedia.
As shown below, according to comScore, in February 2007, Wikipedia was the sixth most-trafficked property, following giants such as Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, eBay and Time Warner (owner of America Online). Wikipedia attracted more traffic than Amazon.com or NYTimes.com in the same period. In February 2007, users spent an average of 15 minutes and 57 seconds on the site, which is better than Disney or Wal-Mart.
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An analysis of Alexa.com data reveals similar patterns.
Do these three things today:
- Make a list of Wikipedia pages that affect you.
- Locate the RSS feed for each page.
- Subscribe to it using Google Reader.
First, make a list of every Wikipedia page that affects you. This is non-trivial. If you blow this, the rest will not make much sense. Include the following:
- The main page for your brand.
- The main page for sub-brands.
- The main page for your competitors.
- Specialty pages focusing on your brand (e.g., McDonald's legal issues).
Second, locate the RSS feed for each page. To do this, follow these steps:
- Click on the History tab of the Wikipedia page you care about.
- On the left sidebar, you should see "RSS Atom."
- Click on RSS.
- Copy and paste the URL into Google Reader.
Third, in Google Reader, create a new folder that includes all the pages you want to follow. Refresh.