Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Wikipedia, wikis and social media marketing – 3

Posted in social networking and business, Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on March 6, 2011

This is my third posting on wikis as a venue for creating effective social media marketing, and for use in general in a business setting (see Part 1 and Part 2.) I have at least started a discussion on including an outwardly facing wiki in the mix of social media and more standard marketing for an organization and pick up on that here, switching in focus from self-hosted and self-maintained to third party-based.

An obvious point that comes up when third party solutions are considered is cost containment and the general issue of devoting in-house resources to meet core business goals and objectives. Hosting in its various forms comes up as at least a possible solution for a great many information technology capabilities, and for most organizations third party hosting is now more or less automatically used for their business web sites and other more traditional online media. I simply point out here, that third party in fact represents a wide range of options with varying levels of in-house control and oversight involved.

• It is possible to locate the servers that house a web site, wiki or other communications and marketing capabilities in a third party’s facilities, and with them responsible for hardware maintenance and physical security – but own the servers themselves. This is called co-location.
• It is possible to host a web site, wiki or other capability as above, but take this one step further and simply rent server space too.
• It is possible to take a hybrid approach here and own the main servers that would house a production, community facing wiki as in the case of the first bullet point, and rent space on backup servers that would be brought into use if the main site server were to go down, or for load balancing to handle unusually high traffic levels. Amazon is one of many services that offers flexible hosting solutions, with the Amazon elastic cloud computing model increasingly important for more and more businesses and for third party hosted information resources and capabilities of all sorts.

But hosting per se and related cost control considerations are only a part of this story, and not necessarily the most interesting part. And this is where I bring up the issues of wiki venues per se, and as the public would view them. The above points deal with back-end technology issues that would in general be invisible to the viewer and site visitor.

If you set up and run your own wiki, either on your own or with support from a third party hosting service, you start out with your own marketing and name brand recognition and with your own organizational branding but little else. If you develop your wiki presence through an established name brand, you start out with a measure of their name recognition and marketing reach too. But you probably loose at least some editorial control and oversight capability in the process and some branding options as well.

The range of options is not as wide, at least as of now for wikis as it is for blogs, but I expect that to change as more and more organizations look into wikis as a viable social media marketing tool. So looking at blogs here, as a possible model for wikis in five years, you can post to your own home built and branded blog site, host it to a site like Word Press where you maintain essentially full editorial control, or opt for a site like Huffington Post where you have to accommodate their posting schedule and their strictly adhered to editorial policies. I add that with the proliferation of wikis and wiki hosting sites, we can all expect to see high name recognition hosting services develop, counterpart to Huffington Post and probably with their own quality control and even editorial oversight.

The final basic option I would cite here is one of entering into a joint venture, either contributing to an already established wiki structure, and with some measure of your own organizational branding included, or in building a collaborative wiki from scratch but with partners. I simply offer this as a possibility that I expect to see followed, and certainly where organizations that connect together as part of some same value chain, also work together in offering a partly organizationally built, partly crowd sourced information base that would help meet shared needs.

I finish this posting with a cautionary note. Whenever you use third party hosting services online, it is important that you do a through due diligence on all of the issues of who is responsible for what, and who is responsible if problems arise, with the key details worked out as to specific events and contingencies. You have to make sure that ownership and re-use rights for any content included are also clearly spelled out, as well as processes and policies for managing personal identifying information that might come from content contributors and others. It is important that you not simply take these details for granted and that basic policies be visible to the outside community as people visit your wiki to read and view, or to contribute.

My next posting in this series will turn to look at in-house use of wikis as components of internal information architectures, accompanying intranets and other core information systems components. And I will discuss what may be the killer app for this with wikis used to support collaborative project management.

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