David Kirkpatrick

Content Marketing: User-generated content tips from Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia

July 15th, 2014

At the recently held Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago, Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, and Allison Banko, Reporter, both of MECLABS, interviewed event speakers and attendees in the MarketingSherpa Media Center.

In this 11-minute video, watch as Daniel spoke with Wikipedia CEO and Founder Jimmy Wales on how to encourage user-generated content – a powerful element within an overall content marketing strategy. Jimmy also discussed why Wikipedia is the only top 50 website in a Wall Street Journal study covering companies that do not engage in any visitor tracking.


Empower people to provide the content they want to provide

Jimmy explained that user-generated content is not free labor for marketers, and that he dislikes the term “crowdsourcing” for that reason.

Retailers think, “I want people to do this work – I want them to write reviews for me.”

He explained, “Instead, they should turn it around and say, ‘What do my customers want to accomplish? What is it they are trying to express, and how can I help them express that?’”

Jimmy continued to say this mindset might lead you in new and different ways. Maybe reviewing products is boring for your customers, but what they are really interested in is discussing your products or services in a more general way in which they can add their expertise to a community.

“That’s the first idea I would give – flip it on its head,” Jimmy said. “Don’t think about the work you would like people to do; think about what it is people want to do and how you can empower them to do that.”


Building high-quality content that’s not spam-filled or self-promotional

A challenge with an ecommerce site where you do want reviews and product feedback is that there’s a huge incentive for the bad parties to come in and spam you, Jimmy said. There’s a huge incentive for people with ulterior motives to say the product is great or the product is bad.

He provided TripAdvisor as an example:

“They’ve struggled with this [type of user-generated content] for years and they’ve done a pretty good job of dealing with it. But in part they’ve dealt with it by being big enough and so popular that you sort of know some of the reviewers aren’t honest, but there’s enough people reviewing it’s kind of OK. But they actively have to police it, and it’s not cheap. It’s not easy,” he explained.

One suggestion Jimmy offered was to attempt to build more of a community among site visitors and customers, rather than have an area of the site where people just go, post a review and then forget about the contribution.

He said this idea doesn’t apply to all ecommerce websites, but can be effective depending on the customer base and website audience. For example, a niche ecommerce site might have customers who want to get to know, and interact with, each other.


Why Wikipedia doesn’t track its site visitors

For a final question, Daniel pointed out a recent Wall Street Journal study of the top 50 Internet sites that found Wikipedia was the sole member of that group that conducted zero website visitor tracking. He added that Wikipedia does have conversion objectives, such as providing information and garnering donations.

With that in mind, Daniel asked, “What do you know that the other 49 sites don’t?”

A core belief at Wikipedia, Jimmy said, is “not spying on people” and the concept that “what you read is your business.”

He added the organization does not sell or share data with third parties, even though user browsing history on Wikipedia pages would probably be fairly valuable information for advertising algorithms.

Currently, the site only records one out of every 1,000 site visits to a log to be broken down statistically. This was done because of capacity reasons, but now the organization is moving toward logging every visit (but still not tracking individual users) for analytics.

Jimmy added Wikipedia is beginning to see the value in understanding how visitors navigate the website – particularly how entry editors use the site, such as abandoning an edit and other similar metrics.


Check out all the IRCE Media Center videos

Our team conducted 32 interviews during two days on the exhibitor floor at IRCE. Check out more of these videos featuring a wide range of event speakers representing brands including: Fathead, Website Magazine, Digital River, Save-A-Lot, Demandware, Joyus and eBay, among many others.

Interested in more ecommerce insights? After you check out IRCE interviews, download your free copy of the MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study for 95 charts on what’s working in ecommerce in 2014 and insights for future efforts.


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User-Generated Content: Video email contest increases site traffic by 13% [Case study]

David Kirkpatrick

About David Kirkpatrick

David is a reporter for MarketingSherpa and has over twenty years of experience in business journalism, marketing and corporate communications. His published work includes newspaper, magazine and online journalism; website content; full-length ghosted nonfiction; marketing content; and short fiction. He served as producer for the business research horizontal at the original Office.com, regularly reporting on the world of marketing; covered a beat for D/FW TechBiz, a member of the American City Business Journals family; and he provided daily reporting for multiple LocalBusiness.com cities. David’s other media and corporate clients include: USA Today, Oxford Intelligence, GMAC, AOL, Business Development Outlook and C-Level Media, among many others.

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  1. July 16th, 2014 at 09:48 | #1

    I couldn’t agree more with Jimmy, especially in regards to his first point. It’s not about what we need from our customers, what we need to achieve but what they need to achieve and how we can help them to do so. Thank you, David!

  2. July 17th, 2014 at 10:11 | #2

    I like how Jimmy Wales said to think about what visitors want to do as opposed to what you want them to do. He mentioned getting that data from feedback and a forum on your site.

  3. July 29th, 2014 at 18:49 | #3

    Buyer persona is a terrific tool to entice buyers to pick you instead of your competition. Understanding your customers needs enables you to create a strong message to your targeted customers about the product that you are trying to market.

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