Allow me to concoct a nightmare scenario for you. It starts well: your company has a successful video game franchise with an enthusiastic community around it. Modern game franchises demand a strong knowledge base, allowing existing fans and prospective customers to read up on the existing mythology and gameplay of the franchise. Thankfully, an enterprising fan has set up their own Wikia, and the magic of community has provided you with a great knowledge base at no cost to yourself. Then, that enterprising fan completely breaks down during a disagreement on the wiki and starts tearing apart the whole site while the rest of the internet points and laughs.
This is what happened to the Wikia for the Silent Hill franchise last week. I’ve avoided linking to it, the links make for grim reading. It shouldn’t be fun for anyone to see another human being having a clear break down, and the subject matter that led to him doing so is a little gruesome. That’s partly the point of course: this subject matter is now indelibly associated with that franchise, and the jokes and references are going to continue for years to come. There’s absolutely nothing the publishers of Silent Hill can do about it. Other fans are trying to make a new wiki, but it will be a slow process and still subject to the same vulnerabilities as the last.
Your Knowledge Base is too Important to Leave to Chance
This is an extreme example of a problem, rogue admins clearly aren’t destroying wikis across the internet, but it should serve to highlight how important it is to have control over your knowledge base. Your customers rely on you to offer them clear, correct information when they need it. If they’re going to Reddit, Wikia or some other source, you can’t vouch for the quality of that information.
Having a great knowledge base around your product isn’t optional. It’s how you deflect support tickets, answer the questions of prospective customers and help prospective customers get the most out of your products and services. Getting it right can be the difference between a good review and a bad one, a repeat sale or a one off customer, a sale for you or a sale for your competitors.
I recently tried to find information on a game only to be flooded with fan made guides to out-of-date information from previous patches, none of which were relevant to the contemporary game. What’s bizarre is that the company in question has a forum, but doesn’t use it to curate or promote great community content. A short-sighted approach to community building (“The fans will take care of it”) has left the knowledge base around their products a cluttered mess.
How You can Avoid These Mistakes
- Encourage your fans to make great content around your product, but don’t rely on them to provide the platform. Your fans won’t thank you for leaving them at the mercy of a despotic wiki admin.
- Keep your knowledge base centralised. You can’t stop fans from making external content, but you can make a central location with great SEO and reward them for posting their content there instead of elsewhere.
- Curate, curate, curate. Surface the best content and quietly sink the rest. Edit for clarity and factual accuracy where necessary. If new information cause content to become outdated, make sure either that it’s updated by a member of your team or by the author themselves.
- Invest in your community. Your fans and customers will create great content if you properly motivate them. Frequently, enthusiasts will make better, more complete content than your team will have time or resources to do. Your role is to provide the platform that enables them to do so, and the encouragement that makes them want to.