The difference between a paid Wikipedia editor and a professional Wikipedia editor is a question of ethics. Professional Wikipedia editors take their epistemic responsibilities very seriously and adopt an ethical approach to editing; paid Wikipedia editors, on the other hand, edit purely for financial gain.
Wikipedia does not have any rules per se, what it does have is a set of fluctuating guidelines and policies, interpreted differently by different editors. The resulting bureaucratic, inconsistent platform has made life difficult for marketing and PR departments. There is a genuine need in the business community for accurate Wikipedia content, but the resulting inconsistencies of the platform place many at a disadvantage. The demand for fair, accurate encyclopaedia content has given rise to a cottage industry of paid Wikipedia editors. However, many of Wikipedia’s volunteer editors believe that information becomes tainted when money enters the equation. Many members of Wikipedia think that paid editing leads to biased content. Wikipedians are right to be concerned; paid editors will post anything a marketing, PR or social media manager tells them to display. This practice is what leads to biased content poisoning the well. Professional Wikipedia editors, on the other hand, mediate between Wikipedia and businesses allowing them to post fair, up to date content so long as it adheres to Wikipedia’s stringent, community enforced guidelines. This professional approach to paid editing helps businesses learn about the platform while simultaneously keeping Wikipedia a reliable, neutral source of unbiased knowledge and valuable social proof.
A professional Wikipedia editor never discloses his clients to anyone, ever!
Embittered vigilante trolls arguably cause more damage to Wikipedia than paid editors, vandals, high school students and PR firms put together.
When hiring freelancers, it is standard practice to ask for samples of their work, after all, how else can you tell if their work is any good? For freelancer’s, showing the client’s a portfolio of their best work is an effective way of selling services and building trust. However, due to some of Wikipedia’s more overzealous editors policing paid editing outside of the site, often stalking and harassing professional editors and their clients on and offline; sharing samples of work is a risk a professional editor would never be willing to take. One notorious anti-business troll going by the name of MER-C even posts links to popular freelancing sites on their user-page and also brags about their affiliation with a group of anti-business trolls known as “The Cabal”.
Once an anti-business troll has convinced him or herself that paid editing has taken place, they will vandalise the content regardless of whether it complies with Wikipedia’s guidelines or not. Such acts of epistemic vandalism include reverting perfectly good edits, placing ugly maintenance tags on a page or deleting the page altogether. Embittered vigilante trolls arguably cause more damage to Wikipedia than paid editors, vandals, high school students and PR firms put together.
It is because of these unsavoury, rogue editors, that professional Wikipedia editors must build trust with their clients, not by showing examples of their work, but by demonstrating their knowledge of Wikipedia’s inner workings. Whereas a paid Wikipedia editor might disclose their work to impress a potential client, a professional Wikipedia editor will not. Professional Wikipedia editors frequently lose potential clients for refusing to show samples, but by doing so, retain valuable long-term clients.
A Professional Wikipedia editor only takes on notable clients.
When hiring a professional Wikipedia editor for the first time, it might seem like they are playing devil’s advocate, they may even seem reluctant to take you on as a client. To take on a client, an editor needs to be sure that the business is notable enough for inclusion in the encyclopaedia. The best way to determine whether a client is worth taking on is to think like the commerce hating Wikipedians policing the platform. One must evaluate the businesses press footprint, surveying the lay of the land for potential problems. On the other hand, a paid editor will say pretty much anything to land a contract.
Professional Wikipedia editors are aware of Wikipedia’s stringent criteria for notability and therefore only work with clients who meet Wikipedia’s notability guidelines. To be considered notable a client must have several articles written in reliable publications, known for thorough fact-checking and high editorial standards. Therefore, if a client does not have any reliable sources, a professional editor will politely advise them to consult with a PR firm, before attempting a Wikipedia page.
A professional Wikipedia editor is not afraid to tell his clients no.
Wikipedia editors have their work rigorously scrutinised by the community. For editors who routinely post business-related content, the scrutiny verges on stifling. Therefore editors working covertly on behalf of businesses must take extra care to adhere to Wikipedia’s guidelines. Businesses wishing to improve their Wikipedia presence may often want to include sales-based rhetoric akin to the copy on their company website. They may also want to add links to promotional material, backlinks, logos and list every single fluffy award their business has received. A professional Wikipedia editor must manage their client’s expectations, being honest and realistic about what companies can and can’t do on the platform; essentially mediating between the world of PR and the culture of Wikipedia.