Wiki impacts can be slow, but are ultimately powerful

Communications experts seeking to uphold the good name of a brand or organization say monitoring and contributing to wikis - Web sites that have content developed collaboratively by visitors - often take more time than participation in blog discussions or other online media. But that's partly what makes the process worth doing.

Communications experts seeking to uphold the good name of a brand or organization say monitoring and contributing to wikis - Web sites that have content developed collaboratively by visitors - often take more time than participation in blog discussions or other online media. But that's partly what makes the process worth doing.

"It's a little bit of a different ballgame compared with the other things we're monitoring," says Cord Silverstein, Capstrat's SVP of engagement marketing. "You need to be able to back up what you're saying, and there's a process that it goes through between the editors and the other people involved in the [wiki]."

Silverstein notes that videos posted on YouTube or posts written by bloggers, which tend to attract more casual readers who will quickly forward them to others, may be a priority in some crisis-management situations. But he adds that people with a significant interest in a particular issue might first visit wikis to learn about the latest developments.

"[Yet] wikis are a great reference," he notes. "They are given great respect by the search engines. Usually a Wikipedia entry is in the top three of a search."

EchoDitto principal Brian Reich notes that changing a wiki entry means engaging in conversation with the people that might be critics of a company or organization on any number of issues.

"Many companies are still not at that place where they feel comfortable actively participating," he says. "But the times when brands have engaged with others have been incredibly positive. You've taken the anger and vitriol out of the conversation and learned something. You're able to produce products and marketing that audiences like more."

When engaging with wikis or any other type of online conversation, be transparent, stresses Ed Lamoureux, SVP at WestGlen Communications. Otherwise, the communications pro's ulterior motives will be discovered.

"You have to respect the community," he says. "If your brand is not worthy of publicizing [in a wiki], don't bother, just take out an ad."

Key points:
Wikis' impact on brand reputation is usually less immediate than that of new media

Shaping perception of a brand or organization on a wiki requires in-depth engagement with the site's managers or contributors

Engagement must always be transparent

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