Wiki Advertising That Engages

The benefits of Wikis to consumers are pretty clear. By inviting anyone well versed in the subject matter at hand to modify its information, a wiki stands to be both accurate and current. Wikipedia — the best-known wiki to date — has grown organically to become the go-to source for information on just about anything, often supplanting traditional encyclopedias and other third-party resources.

The advantages of wikis to advertisers are a little muddier. Most would give their eyeteeth for a glowing Wikipedia entry, but successfully justifying an entry and then releasing control of it to the greater community ensures this form of marketing remains rather elusive. That’s not to say, however, that marketing and advertising opportunities on wikis that attract an engaged audience of users don’t exist.

In January, a new wiki was launched that has created such an occasion for those with rental properties to promote online. With its community-contributed content model, RentWiki.com offers information on available rental properties across the country. What really distinguishes it, however, is the information it’s able to provide on the areas in which those properties are located, and the way it uses social media to do it.

“Lots of sites were offering apartment information, but there wasn’t much about neighborhoods,” says Robert Turnbull, co-founder and president of RentWiki. “We went out to integrate social media aspects to provide this other half of what consumers were looking for. This also makes for more qualified leads back to the industry.”

In a bold move, Turnbull and his partners opted against incorporating traditional ad placements into the site in favor of a pay-per-lead system in which RentWiki charges $10 for every legitimate and unique renter lead. Its client base is mainly comprised of large apartment complexes and communities of a hundred units or more, and it plans to expand to include real estate listings over time.

Current advertisers are able to upload as much information about their properties to the site as they desire, entirely free of charge, including multimedia assets, videos, and widgets. It’s a familiar arrangement that works well for all parties involved: advertisers get plenty of coverage and only have to pay when genuine interest is show on behalf of an active apartment hunter, while RentWiki gets plenty of accurate content without having to pay for it.

RentWiki is also noteworthy for its efforts to incorporate other forms of social media that serve both to enhance its content and broaden its consumer reach. At present the site has 45 social services integrated into its neighborhood pages and feeding content to its users, including Twitter, Facebook, Walk Score, and several social bookmarking sites. Those thinking about moving to Dunwoody, GA, can see what Dunwoody residents are saying about its pros and cons on a real-time Twitter feed, as well auto populate their Twitter Update field with a question about the neighborhood and best places there to live.

If you don’t happen to represent an apartment complex, there are other ways to advertise on wiki sites. Wikia.com (created by the founder of Wikipedia) is a community of CGM-driven (define) sites on 12,000 topics ranging from figure skating to “Twilight” and “World of Warcraft.” As a whole, Wikia’s sites reach over 30 million active and engaged unique users monthly, according to Wikia’s internal logs and Google Analytics. Monthly page views hover around 600 million, and the sites have experienced 300 percent growth year-over-year, according to January comScore data. Wikia users are active, with the average site session around 14 minutes, and over 30,000 users make at least one edit per month.

Wikia sells advertising directly through its San Francisco sales team, with pricing varying from CPM (define) to some CPC (define) and CPA (define) campaigns. Standard Interactive Advertising Bureau approved formats are available (including roadblocks and site skins), and ads can be targeted to categories like entertainment and gaming, individual wikis like “Lost” wiki “Lostpedia,” and by demographic and geographic information.

Opportunities unique to wikis exist as well. “We try and leverage the wiki culture when creating non-standard type ad programs,” says Bob Huseby, SVP publisher of Wikia Inc. Among the offerings are custom content quizzes, wiki-to-wiki based contests, scavenger hunts across wikis, interview series, branded wikis, and live gaming tournaments. Advertisers include TBS and GamePro Media.

Whether through direct leads or more traditional ad placements, wiki advertising universally offers marketers one thing: access to a highly engaged audience of Internet users. The social and community aspect of these sites encourages user interaction. Who needs Wikipedia when you’ve got that?

Does your company or client offer one of the best online marketing products or services? Nominate it now for one of the 2009 ClickZ Marketing Excellence Awards!

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