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Since 2007, the number of active editors in the German-language Wikipedia has been in decline. To counter this development, in 2017, WMDE began to conduct online campaigns – in addition to offline activities such as Wikipedia Action Days – to convince Wikipedia readers to become new Wikipedia editors.
Key Findings and Results (in English)
You can find key findings and results from our campaigns here.
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Banner Campaigns (since 2017 - ongoing)
Since 2017, the Volunteer Support Team at Wikimedia Deutschland has been regularly conducting online marketing campaigns using web banners on the German-language Wikipedia in order to recruit new editors. The banners are deployed via Central Notice DE-WP, as we cannot independently place any banners on Wikipedia.
A typical campaign usually features at least one banner with a graphical element, a claim, and a call-to-action, and leads to a campaign landing page. The duration of a campaign is usually seven to ten days. The banner gets displayed in front of a high percentage of guest users of Wikipedia (those who are not logged in), which amounts to between 7.5m (Spring Campaign 2017) and 168.4m (‘Thank You!’ Banner Campaign 2019) banner impressions. Depending on the campaign, landing page views range from 17k to 591k. The results vary, depending on campaign objectives. The campaigns achieved new user registrations ranging from 111 (Summer Campaign 2018) to 1,243 (Spring Campaign 2018). Of those newly-registered users, between 32 (Summer Campaign 2017) and 223 (Fall Campaign 2017) became active new editors.
E-Mail Campaigns (since 2019 - ongoing)
In October 2019, we conducted our first e-mail campaign with the goal of recruiting donors to also become active editors on Wikipedia. Our previous online campaigns has exclusively used web banners displayed on the German-language Wikipedia. This first e-mail campaign achieved an opening rate of around 40% in the first mailing, and about 5% clicked on one of the links, which is a medium value for such campaigns across industries. A second mailing contained an inquiry about the first mailing, and brought us 200 responses. All mailings combined achieved a total of 318 landing page views and 30 new user registrations. The conversion rate from mailings to landing page views was 0.8%, which is double the amount of the average for banner campaigns (0.4%).
We think that this approach is very promising. We also assume that the high response rate to our follow-up mailing indicates a strong identification with Wikipedia and/or Wikimedia Deutschland. The activity of newly-registered users was unfortunately relatively low: Only two users made any edits. The influence of the campaign on donor behavior will be examined for a longer period of time after the campaign. As soon as we have new results, they will be added here.
Social Media Campaigns (since 2019 - ongoing)
In September 2019, we conducted our first social media campaign. This campaign was the first online campaign of Team Volunteer Support outside of the platform Wikipedia and the banner campaigns displayed there. One goal was to test whether advertisements on Social Media would be of interest to Wikimedia. For re:publica19, we had developed a type test, the 'Participate'-test ("Mitmachen-Test" in German), which suggests to users how and where they can participate in creating Free Knowledge, based on the selected answers. The test offers a previously non-existent overview of the various opportunities to participate and entry points into the Wikimedia ecosystem, including Wikipedia, Wikidate, Wikimedia Commons, and engagement on behalf of Open Data and Free Knowledge. The test was well-received among the community.
As the landing page and the test had previously only been presented at re:publica19, and were therefore not known among a broader public, we took up a suggestion from the community and expanded the test to Facebook and Instagram with paid advertising.
The 'Participate'-test was very well received on Social Media. Over the duration of about four weeks, ads were booked alternately on Facebook and Instagram. As a result, over 1,200 participants were motivated to complete the 'Participate'-test. The test gained additional reach through embedded ‘Share’ buttons for Facebook and other Social Media platforms.
In the table below, you can find links to all our past and present campaigns designed to recruit and retain new volunteers in the German-language Wikimedia projects. By clicking on a link, you will be directed to the respective campaign's project page with more detailed information (at the moment only in German).
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Ways to Participate
Screenshot of the 'Participate Test' from Wikimedia Deutschland
- On location during events, a low-barrier interactive test with beautiful graphics attracts attention.
- People want to participate → The message "Free Knowledge thrives on participation!" needs to be emphasized more.
- The breadth of participation opportunities is important for an individual appeal → It is good to have something for everyone.
- One challenge lies in the online / offline divergence of the test (offline on location during events versus visiting a landing page).
- The main challenge is providing easy-to-use introductory pages for new volunteers.
- For online use, tests like the 'Participate Test' need to be implemented with a responsive design / optimized for mobile devices, as an increasing share of especially younger users rarely use the classical desktop or laptop PC in their daily Internet use anymore.
- An attractive visual design (e.g. illustrations) is key for appealing to younger online audiences outside of Wikipedia.
In the beginning of 2019, WMDE began to develop an interactive ‘Participate Test’ (“Mitmachtest”) designed to raise awareness of the opportunities to participate in Wikimedia projects, foster volunteer identification with the projects around Free Knowledge, and illustrate the great variety of ways to contribute to Free Knowledge.
The first project phase, which lasted from January to June 2019, included concept development, software development and website programming until the beginning of May, followed by an initial deployment during re:publica 2019 and additional deployments at other conferences.
The second project phase, from July to October 2019, included the development of a social media campaign to promote the test and the transfer of the test to a mobile-friendly website. In October 2019, the social media campaign was deployed on Facebook and Instagram.
You can find a more detailed project description here.
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Wikipedia Approaches to Onboarding (January 2018)
In January 2018, we commissioned a qualitative study ("Wikipedia Onboarding Ansätze - Ergebnisse einer qualitativen Studie") (in German) on the various onboarding measures we had implemented throughout 2017.
In the context of recruiting new volunteers, WMDE conducted several campaigns on Wikipedia throughout the year (2017) with the aim of contributing to the recruitment of new editors, but also easing the entry into editing Wikipedia.
The findings from the campaigns are limited to quantitative results regarding registrations, edits, numbers of views of videos, viewing duration and use of guided tours. Whether or not these tours are truly helpful can be better determined through in-person interviews.
The detailed results of the qualitative study on onboarding approaches are available on a separate page (in German).
Compact assessment of results
- Potential new editors find the various introductory guides quite useful and would to see such an offer on Wikipedia.
- Corresponding to the different levels of knowledge, tasks at hand, and approaches, a diverse mix is recommendable
- The location of aids and the paths to entry still have room for optimization, as do the content and visual presentation.
- Frequently asked initial questions above all concern the ‘correct’ proceeding according to Wikipedia standards, which most new editors are not yet accustomed to.
- A more transparent communication of the platform structure (also in international comparison), a more focused introduction to the basics and quality standards for articles in an encyclopedia, as well as the publishing- and coordination process for quality control would be desirable from a new editor’s perspective.
New editors need basic knowledge in the beginning
New editors tend to have insufficient knowledge, in particular about important Wikipedia basics.
The exact process of an article’s genesis and development is unknown to them, they are not acquainted with encyclopedic quality criteria, and there is a vague and partially false idea about which control mechanisms exist within Wikipedia:
- The process of article development and the possibility to discuss with other editors of articles is unknown to the majority of new editors.
- The quality criteria are estimated as relatively high, but they are not known by most new editors.
- Especially in regards to the control over publishing articles, there is the recurring (false) assumption of the existence of (paid) Wikipedia staff or a special editorial team conducting a final revision and making a decision.
General help and getting started
In the beginning, new editors are often looking for a general help section. Often, there is an expectation of a help functionality in the upper row in the user account area (this was one time confused with the search button below the user account).
- The general Wikipedia help section is overall less well-known / located
- The heading ‘Participate’ (“Mitmachen”) on the left margin is not immediately self-explanatory. It is not clear that there is a help section behind it.
- The first impression of the general help page is rather sobering and in part illustrates the basic issue with most help pages up to now.
Conclusion on the introductory help
Expectations towards Wikipedia’s introductory help:
Users want an introduction and / or guidance to participating after registration. Therefore, there should be an optimized starting aid with pointers to the basics of editing for beginners.
- Quick selection of the relevant field of interest
- Provision of a choice of different learning formats and interaction opportunities
- Supporting potential new editors at different knowledge levels (technical and specific to Wikipedia), and indicating which target audience a specific offer is targeting.
- Proactively meeting new users on Wikipedia by pointing to an introductory page immediately after registration → offering context-specific help
- Giving an overview of guided tours, videos, trainings, mentorship program, local editing meet-ups, etc.
- Advertising community activities more granularly, for example by specific areas, and encouraging networking and exchange among authors
Benchmark Analysis (June 2017)
In June 2017, we commissioned a benchmark analysis with the premise of analyzing and comparing community building strategies from different organizations (NGOs and commercial enterprises). The following ideas were identified as potentially helpful to adapt to Wikipedia:
- establish more opportunities to share contributions or contributors on Social Media
- create an opportunity to follow editors or their contributions to create more interconnectedness
- organize exclusive events for editors
- establish exclusive functions for editors
Analysis: Benchmarkanalyse 2017 (in German)
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Qualitative interviews about Wikipedia onboarding videos (February 2017)
Our main aim with this survey, conducted by German market research company GIM in February 2017, was to find out more about the perception of a series of video tutorials we had created for new editors. In these videos, we explain the main rules of Wikipedia and the basic process of editing articles.
Other research aspects of the survey included gaining a better understanding of new editors' motivations and their views on when and how they would expect help in the process of getting started with contributing to Wikipedia.
The main findings were:
- Wikipedia is very relevant for the respondents and they expect a high article quality on Wikipedia
- People have the impression that they need to be very competent in regard to a topic before they are ready to start editing and often do not know that they can actually edit Wikipedia
- WikiCode is perceived as very complicated and many people are not willing to invest time and effort in learning WikiCode
- The videos are perceived as very informative but at times quite amateurish
Survey: Wikipedia Onboarding Videos 2017
Survey: Welcome-culture for new editors at Wikipedia (January 2016)
In order to get a first impression of how welcoming Wikipedia is to new editors, we commissioned a survey in January 2016. In this survey, we asked community members of different ages who were contributing to Wikipedia. A total of 686 participants answered our questions on the state of a 'welcoming culture'. For instance, we asked how new editors are welcomed, what the difficulties to start editing were in their opinion, or who is willing to engage in novel ways of welcoming new editors.
One of the main findings was that the current culture of Wikipedia does not welcome new editors. Many respondents reported that newbies are often treated rudely. They reported that there was a lack of good opportunities to learn the rules of Wikipedia and how to communicate with others.
Survey: Wikimedia Deutschland Editor Survey 2016
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Available Materials for Adoption
We will add more materials in the future.
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