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Here's why you shouldn't edit your own Wikipedia page.

It looks sneaky. You'll get caught. It'll be embarrassing.

Okay, so you're a public figure, or maybe you work for a big brand. And you go to Wikipedia to check out the article about you.

And you look, and you realize something is totally unfair.

And so you say to yourself, "I'm just going to fix it."

Stop. Right. There.

There are a few reasons you shouldn't do that.

Already convinced? You can skip this next part. Here are some things you can do to look out for your brand online.

Why shouldn't I edit my own Wikipedia page?

Editing your own Wikipedia page is a conflict of interest.

Wikipedia is one of the most expansive online resources of knowledge, and while it's far from perfect, we all benefit from articles that are written by impartial observers.

Wikipedia's own policies and guidelines have a comprehensive section on Wikipedia conflicts of interest:

Conflict of interest (COI) editing involves contributing to Wikipedia about yourself, family, friends, clients, employers, or your financial and other relationships. Any external relationship can trigger a conflict of interest. That someone has a conflict of interest is a description of a situation, not a judgment about that person's opinions or integrity.

COI editing is strongly discouraged on Wikipedia. It undermines public confidence, and it risks causing public embarrassment to the individuals being promoted. Editors with a COI cannot know whether or how much it has influenced their editing. If COI editing causes disruption, an administrator may opt to place blocks on the involved accounts.

Sure, but anyone can edit Wikipedia, right?

Yes, anyone can edit Wikipedia.

That's what makes it great.

Every once in a while, someone adds Paul Ryan to a list of invertebrates. It definitely doesn't fall within the Wikipedia guidelines, but you have to admit it has a certain charm.

Just because you can doesn't mean it's a smart idea for your brand, though.

via @alplicable

I don't care about guidelines or ethics. What's stopping me?

Public embarrassment and shaming.

Leaving aside the clear conflict of interest (that you're supposed to be disclosing who you are if you're editing with a conflict of interest), your edit will be reviewed by a team of volunteer editors on the site, and every edit you make is publicly logged.

Your IP address and other information about you may wind up public, and... you just might get caught.

Think it can't happen to you?

Wikipedia keeps a list of all the people who have been caught self-editing—including the founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales himself.

There's even a Twitter account that tracks every edit made by U.S. Congressional staffers:

If you do get caught, your edit will almost certainly be reversed. Your page will be subjected to more scrutiny, and the community might add even more unflattering (but verifiable) details.

So ask yourself—is the potential backfire worth it?

But something is wrong about me on the internet. How do I fix it?

If you think something on your Wikipedia page desperately needs changing—now—you probably have bigger issues. Let us help.

But if it really is just something small, here are a few things you can do instead of trying to edit your own Wikipedia page:

  1. Edit honestly and openly: If you absolutely have to edit your Wikipedia page, do it openly. Say who you are, back up your claims with cited sources, and be ready to engage in the Talk section of your article. But be prepared for community editors to reject your edits, especially if they're subjective or tonal.

    Put another way: President Donald Trump can't edit his own Wikipedia article to call his business experience "tremendous," but he could maybe get away with an edit that properly cites his checkered history stiffing small contractors.

  2. Talk it out: Okay, so you don't have to edit your Wikipedia page yourself, but you can start a discussion in the Talk section of the article. Provide the sources and citations you have, and ask contributors to consider editing.

  3. Hire an editor: You can commission a Wikipedia editor to update your page—generally done with all the same disclosures as editing yourself, they just know a little more about Wikipedia's community guidelines and processes. Wikipedia as a community gets a little fuzzy about this, so if you want to go this route, you're definitely on your own.

  4. Work on yourself: You might never be able to directly control your Wikipedia page without incurring the wrath of the internet, but you can make sure the rest of your internet presence reflects you or your brand:

    • Create a keyword-friendly website;
    • Maintain an active social media presence;
    • Do interviews and profiles with news outlets where you talk specifically about the very items you wish were covered in your page.
    • If you have an authoritative platform, use it. More than four years after a Washington Post article got Dr. Jill Biden's birthday wrong, she tweeted out her correct birthday, and a reporter changed it. (It's June 3, by the way.)

Okay, I'm ready to make the internet like me. Where do I start?

The first step to finding the right answer is asking the right questions. And that is a great question!

Create a keyword-friendly website: Say you spent a lot of time and effort on your website. It's fun, it's engaging, and most important—it includes the information you want people to know about you and your brand. But it's coming up wayyyy below your Wikipedia page when folks search for you, and nobody's seeing it.

It may be because your website doesn't include enough of the terms people associate with you when they search for you. For example, if Kid Rock called his new website "Robert James Ritchie for Senate" and never mentioned the words "Born Free" or "Bawitdaba", it might be hard for his core demographic to find his campaign website.

Maintain an active social media presence: Yes, Twitter is for nerds, but guess what: Journalists are nerds, and they're on Twitter. Facebook is for your grandma, but I bet your grandma votes and buys things and sends you a card on your birthday, so you might as well be there, too.

Think about where you are online, and what you're putting out there. Does it reflect you and your brand? Does your target audience hang out there? What could you be doing better to capture their attention, and tell them something valuable?

Put together a good communications strategy: One that gets across what your Wikipedia page is missing. Do interviews and profiles with news outlets, partner with people or organizations you admire, and try to get noticed—for good things. It may seem counterintuitive, but more publicity—if it's the right publicity—can improve your brand's image organically. No cloak-and-dagger Wikipedia editing required.

Need a little bit more help? Want to produce great organic content? Have a specific goal in mind for your social strategy? Have a full on communications crisis?
That's what we're here for.

You just learned a lot, right?

But there's a lot more to doing smart things on the internet.

Come chat with Precision Strategies: From digital, to data, to crisis communications, we're here to help.

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