An interesting article/post from Shel Holtz examines briefly the phenomenon of Wikipedia marketing. He talks of a software company that posted its technology entry on to the community-grown Wikipedia.
Within 20 minutes, the post had been edited, and now has several pages of dense content on Wikipedia and appears highly on search results on Google for Labview. It is a great example of how marketers can jump start the creation of third party content that ends up being a wonderful selling and marketing tool – assuming you are able to release control and let the greater community take over.
After reading something like this, I am sure that unscrupulous marketers (and those with absolutely no budget but plenty of time) are going to jump on the free Wikipedia marketing bandwagon. I’m surprised that more haven’t yet. I’ve heard rumblings of CP+B getting into this. A few other PR bloggers as well. But overall, the idea of using a community-based property like Wikipedia for cynical marketing purposes is inherently flawed. People won’t allow it.
As Holtz writes:
While I have no doubt some smart PR people will use the idea of new entries in Wikipedia as a guerrilla marketing tactic, I also have no doubt that some clumsy, unprofessional, brainless dolts will apply the same techniques more brutishly, resulting in a backlash and (as so often happens in our business) wind up having the rest of us painted with their brush.
It’s a good idea, but tread carefully if you try it. Make sure your entry adds value to Wikipedia readers, not just to your client.
Oh yeah, and the MySpace and Facebook sites of the world. Hands off there as well. One only has to surf around for a few minutes to see the commercial colonization of those communities through fake profiles, message board product placments, and outright spam. Shameful.