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People around the world turn to Wikipedia and its related projects for informative, interesting and entertaining content. Our social media channels give them that because that is what they want, and that's where we get engagement and reach, ensuring future visibility.
But that's not enough. Unlike other publishers, the stories behind our stories are just as important. Who edited that article we posted, and why? Who took the Wikimedia Commons picture of the year we put on Facebook? Are there Wikimedians, edit-a-thons, grants and projects behind our Women In STEM Pinterest board?
Social media and the Wikimedia blog are the best way to showcase our content and explain the movement behind it in a continual way that meets readers where they are.
And our social media audience is primarily readers. Twitter polls and Facebook questions indicate most of those audiences access Wikipedia daily, but only about half have ever edited Wikipedia.
Our social media strategy is to showcase relevant content and explain the movement behind it to audiences who like our brand and need help connecting more closely with it. We do this collaboratively with the community, Foundation staff, and other Wikimedia-related organizations in ways that adhere to the pillars of the Wikimedia movement.
We engage with users, showcase content, demonstrate processes, provide calls to action and facilitate measurable conversion (such as driving traffic to destination web pages). Our general approach is engage; instruct; convert. We do not simply push content—and especially not self-serving content.
The Wikimedia community can be hard for newcomers to penetrate. Our verified social media accounts must act as brand ambassadors. The social media team should engage with people who comment on our posts. This is the direct responsibility of the person who posted (and will know most about it), but is the shared responsibility of the team. Friendly acknowledgment of our social media community is highly encouraged, as are answering questions and providing helpful links. This brings direct results—from higher Newsfeed rankings on Facebook to greater brand loyalty and more participation in the movement.
Do not get entangled with trolls or unfriendly users. When in doubt, check in with Social-medialists.wikimedia.org. Take a basic approach to problems of greet, acknowledge, suggest, provide email address. So that would look like this for us: . The voice and tone project has signed off on these basic guidelines: We are never sarcastic or combative. We should feel free to be polite and helpful.
What to post
Our posts generally fall into two categories: Crowd-pleasing content, and explanations of the Wikimedia movement.
Crowd-pleasing content: People know us for our content—primarily our Wikipedia articles. They respond enthusiastically to that content on social media. We can demonstrate how to share Wikipedia articles, Wikimedia Commons media, Wikiquotes and more. More than perhaps any other part of the Wikimedia Foundation, we can change how people think about Wikimedia projects. We can help them see the movement as open information they can freely create, use, shape and share—rather than thinking of us as simply a search engine.
- We are international, multi-cultural, and multilingual. Our content should reflect that. All efforts should be made to connect with and reflect a global and diverse audience, including outreach to underrepresented communities, translations of blog posts and social media messaging, and efforts to include content from around the world.
- We have an important challenge to reach out to more women. Our Facebook fans are 69% male, and female fans can feel outnumbered in comment streams, based on comments we have received on our Facebook posts. Our content needs to include concerted efforts to include women of history, science, business, government, sports and the arts, as well as topics that are universal rather than those traditionally more appealing to men (such as military history).
- We also need to be careful around any messaging that could be insensitive to gender, race, age, or disability.
- We share public domain and CC0-licensed images and link to their Wikimedia Commons pages to show people how to legally share images on social media.
Explanations of the Wikimedia movement: Wikipedia fans on Facebook and @wikipedia followers on Twitter are primarily readers, rather than editors. They want to know more about the Wikimedia movement, and they may not have even basic knowledge about it.
- By intermingling basic explanations of the movement with the content they have come to love, we can grow readers into editors, donors, community members, Wikipedians.
- On two large accounts—the 5 million-fan Facebook page and the 320,000-follower @Wikipedia Twitter account, we have our best platforms to explain the movement. We must guard those platforms against the boring and overly complicated. We must be friendly explainers and guides. The Wikimedia movement can be very complicated, and at times even unfriendly. We have to keep it gracious and simple.
- There's room for community announcements and events on our two main channels, but we should be sensitive to our audiences. While we welcome suggestions for posts from the Wikimedia Foundation staff and the Wikipedian community, announcements of anniversaries or pet projects are not the focus.
- Blog posts, videos and wiki pages that walk beginners through the basics are ideal.
- @wikimedia on Twitter is a good place for more complicated community news and foundation news. The audience there is often more sophisticated about how the movement works.
Real-time news and disasters: Increasingly Wikipedians are choosing to update and read article pages on breaking news events because our articles are updated so thoroughly and so quickly. Those articles are a significant resource for readers and journalists as breaking news unfolds. News is often unpleasant, and we want to be sensitive to that.
When news breaks, our social media team works with the Wikimedia Foundation public relations and communications team to craft straight verbiage and links to articles without sentiment or elaboration—if those articles are developed enough to help readers. Post this: "Wikipedians are updating the article on (notable person who has died or breaking news event with a link)."
Case study: In the case of the Paris terror attacks, the article page had dozens of sources and hundreds of edits within an hour. Dozens of verified Twitter accounts linked to it, including journalists who cited it as an important resource:
- For this reason, we linked to the article in a tweet. Twitter users clicked the link in that one tweet 1,300+ times—more link clicks on one tweet than any other in our accounts’ histories.
- We do not promote articles about disasters to compete with news agencies or get clicks or retweets. We state that Wikipedians are updating the article as a way of reflecting the community’s involvement and to provide our article page as a resource of real-time, ad-free, crowd-sourced information for all.
- When a famous person dies, the mainstream media confirms that, and the community has noted that on a thorough article page, a swift social media post noting the death, including a public domain photo and a bit about the person is encouraged. Examples here and here. Do not do so without consulting another member of the social media team. We do not note the death as sad or tragic or use rest in peace or other phrases. Sensitive, factual statements are best.
Examples of posts:
- Example of a Facebook link post.
- Example of a Facebook photo post.
- Example of a Facebook engagement status update.
- Example of a link tweet.
- Example of a customer service tweet.
When to post
We tend to post in the middle of the afternoon and the middle of the week, and the reasons are obvious: That’s when we are in the office, when we discuss ideas, when we have time and resources. The problem is that every measurement of our Facebook posts indicates this is the worst time for us to post. We should post when our fans are online and engaging, not when it’s convenient for us. On Facebook, timing can be crucial on getting traction for a post. We do not see the same timing pattern on Twitter, where engagement doesn’t seem to follow such a pattern.
Voice and tone
Our voice is smart, crisp, energized, factual, principled — with a pinch of nerdery. We don’t do sarcasm or snark, profanity or slang, flame wars or gushing compliments. We are a fact-based platform and our messaging should have similar focus. Wikipedia and social media are fraught with partisan debate; on our accounts, we don’t get involved. On our branded accounts, and as members of the social media team, we rise above the fray, consult managers (and above) and craft a statement addressing a conflict (if necessary). That can be done swiftly, but should never be done rashly. Do not unilaterally engage with anyone on social media as the brand if there is any hint of conflict or dispute. Check in with team members before you respond.
Our YouTube channel needs better branding and oversight. We are moving forward with a public domains project on Pinterest and discussing Line and WeChat for distributing content in Asia. We are talking with Snapchat about content-posting. We want to be open to new platforms and projects and to encourage Wikipedians to pursue those channels unofficially as well.
List of social media accounts can be found on the office wiki (accessible to Wikimedia Foundation staff only).