One of the annual highlights of the IPRRC is to find out what Marcia Watson DiStaso
(Penn State) and Marcus Messner (Virginia Commonwealth University)
have been up to lately. Back in 2006 they presented the first ever study of how Wikipedia impacts reputation and your public relations program. In 2008 they brought us an update, and this year they didn't disappoint. Their 2010 results are more interesting than ever. They looked at the Wikipedia pages for 10 of America's most visible companies including: Wal-Mart, Exxon, GM, Ford, GE, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Citigroup, AIG and IBM.
DiStaso and Messner argue that PR people MUST pay attention to Wikipedia because of the influence it has over search engine results. Overall, according to their research, Wikipedia has gained search engine prominence over the years, essentially dominating Yahoo, MSN and Google searches. In one year, an average of 780,053 people viewed articles about the ten companies. The individual statistics are even more impressive. 1.6 million People viewed the GM article thus far in 2010, and another 1.4 million viewed the page for Wal-Mart
They also investigated how public opinion forms a Wikipedia article, looking at both the number of edits for an article (rigor) and diversity (total number of unique users). As it turns out, there's been a significant shift in both rigor and diversity for many companies, depending on the degree to which they have been in the headlines and how engaged they are in social media. GM and AIG for example have seen significantly higher number of edits and far more users, than they experienced in 2006. On the other hand, companies that have embraced social media and engaged in conversations in the marketplace, such as Ford and Wal-Mart have seen a decline in both the number of edits and the number of users.
Interestingly, the tone of postings to Wikipedia has also significantly shifted over time. Overall, for all companies studied, the percentage of negative articles has increased in 2010, while positive postings declined. This was the reverse of the trend they found in 2008, when positives increased and negatives declined. For individual companies, only IBM saw an increase in positives, while every saw other company saw a decline in positives between 2008 and 2010. GM and Chevron were the only companies that managed to reduce their negatives, while Wal-Mart, CitiGroup, Exxon, and IBM all saw their negatives increased.
Additionally the nature of the topics discussed has changed over time, with less and less of the postings focusing on the past and more about what is currently going on within the companies. Finally, they looked at the length of the average Wikipedia articles over time, and found that it has increased 45% between 2006 and 2010.