“We will never display ads on our websites & our platforms will always be free to use”
The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that operates Wikipedia, recently launched a campaign in collaboration with Indian youth influencers to highlight the power of free knowledge and show people how projects like Wikipedia can help them access and share knowledge globally. Over a period of three weeks, these influencers have released short 60-second videos on Instagram highlighting Wikipedia articles related to topics about the everyday lives of Indian youth and their online pursuit for knowledge.
The “Know Your World Better with Wikipedia” campaign is meant to encourage Indian youth to follow their curiosity and do their own research on a wide variety of topics by seeking out open, fact-based, and reliable information, currently available on Wikipedia, the world’s largest online encyclopedia. From music and sports to body positivity, sustainability and even insects, the featured content will raise awareness about the ways in which Wikipedia can be used as a place to explore and share knowledge.
The content collaborators include popular ex-Radio Jockey Abhinav; comic influencers Sanyam Sharma, Aabir Vyas and Vagmita (thatindianchick); north-eastern model and actress Merenla Imsong; illustrator-writer Priyanka Paul; disability rights activist Virali Modi; Forbes 30 under 30 member and influencer Tirthak Saha; and sustainability influencer Nayana Premnath.
In conversation with Adgully, Khanyi Mpumlwana, Creative Director, Wikimedia Foundation, shares the objective behind the campaign, Gen Z preference and behaviour, collaboration with influencers and many more.
What is the #KnowWithWiki campaign all about? What do you want to achieve through this campaign and whom is it targeted at?
#KnowWithWiki is an Instagram based campaign, where the Wikimedia Foundation is collaborating with young Indian content creators to reach the dynamic GenZ in India. A lot of young people in India may not consciously use Wikipedia as part of their knowledge sharing; and this campaign aims to demonstrate the role we could play in what they already do – share information. We hope with this campaign to reach the future of open knowledge – young people – and increase their awareness of Wikipedia’s vision – a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. We want to strengthen our communications and establish a fruitful, long-term relationship with them through a medium they interact with (Instagram short videos) and people they associate with (influencers with diverse voices).
How did you arrive at the creative ideation for the campaign? What is the core thought?
The campaign’s idea is closely aligned with the Foundation’s vision – we want to explore the limitless nature of collaborative knowledge sharing. Wikipedia is a platform that thrives on the voices of people all over the world, and we want to use campaigns like these to show young people that they can also participate in the world of knowledge sharing, but in the ways that they enjoy – through short audio visual content on their social channels that they can engage with.
With this campaign, along with another we made in South Africa, we are experimenting with the Wikipedia brand by putting it in the hands of young creators, to see what they come up with.
How did you decide to collaborate with Indian social media influencers? What is your criteria for shortlisting these influencers?
The idea behind the campaign was to reach our target audience – the GenZ – in a form that they are most comfortable with; and what better way to do that than through their favourite influencers? We gave full creative liberty to the influencers to choose the topics they want to talk about. We gave them a simple brief – to pick a topic that interests them and will resonate with their audience and then break it down using relevant information from Wikipedia.
We are not a brand that dictates how people should share their knowledge, or the things that interest them the most; we are just a brand that wants to encourage people to do it using a trusted source of information – like Wikipedia!
How has the contest fared so far? Any learnings that you can share?
We only have preliminary learnings from our campaign so far – but it looks very promising. With this small but targeted influencer campaign, we have managed to reach almost 2 million young minds in the country already. We are seeing some great engagement on the posts as well – some of the influencer-mediated Q&As received great user participation as the audience really resonated with the content shared. It has been a great start and learning experience for us, and we can’t wait to keep building on this momentum.
What is the primary business of Wikimedia Foundation? Being a non-profit organisation, how do you generate revenues?
The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit that operates Wikipedia and other free knowledge platforms like Wikimedia Commons, Wiktionary, Wikisource, etc. We host the sites and provide software experiences for contributing, reading and sharing any content on our sites. We also provide support to our volunteer communities via grantmaking, training, and other resources. However, we are not directly involved in the curation of our projects, we do not set editorial policy for Wikipedia or any other Wikimedia sites -- that is up to our community of volunteer editors. Our main model of revenue generation is through donations to the Foundation, for which we organise fundraising campaigns in different regions around the world from time to time.
We have often come across notes at the top of Wikipedia articles seeking donations to support the organisation. What kind of response do you get to the call for donation?
Wikipedia is the only major website run by a non-profit organisation, the Wikimedia Foundation. We are not funded through advertising neither will we ever display ads on our websites, we do not sell data and our platforms will always be free to use. We only ask our readers to support us from time to time to ensure we continue to function and keep this open-source ecosystem alive and thriving. This system allows us to be truly neutral, trusted and free from commercial interests, which is critical to our independence.
Our Indian readers significantly supported our calls for donations in our first fundraising campaign in the country in 2020. We were deeply humbled by the generosity and eagerness of Indian readers as we received over 500,000 donations from readers across the country with the average donation being close to Rs 313. Our next campaign in emerging markets, including India, started on June 2, 2022.
In this era of fake news and a deluge of information from all kinds of sources, how do you ensure that the information and facts available on Wikipedia are verified?
Wikipedia is not new to misinformation – our volunteers have been sorting fact from fiction since we began over 20 years ago. Our community of editors have evolved various frameworks and guidelines that ensure Wikipedia is true to the highest editorial standards. Content on Wikipedia must be neutral, verifiable, and attributable to a reliable secondary source. Content that does not meet these standards is swiftly removed by our volunteers, page watchers as well as bots that constantly comb the platform and help our community fight misinformation. Most vandalism (edits that do not meet Wikipedia’s reliability and neutrality standards) is addressed within five minutes on Wikipedia.
Another important aspect here is transparency. Wikimedians lay great emphasis on keeping everything open and publicly available. Everything on Wikipedia is cited, edits and changes to a page are debated on our talk pages. So, even when people may have different points of view, those debates are public and transparent, and in some cases really allow for the right kind of back and forth.
As the Creative Director of Wikimedia Foundation, what is your role and responsibilities?
As the Creative Director, I work within the Brand Studio in the Foundation, which is a part of the Communications Department. Our primary aim is to further the Foundation’s efforts to share information openly and effectively. The Brand Studio is a team of creative professionals; ranging from strategy and brand management to writing and design; who work to develop and craft the voice of our brand globally. My role as the Creative Director is to determine creative, resonant, and sometimes even localised ways for Wikimedia projects to connect with audiences who are not overly familiar with them yet. We collaborate with different teams within the department on multiple campaigns, initiatives and experiments in order to help build awareness of Wikimedia, and, hopefully one day, contribute to a more equitable, representative knowledge ecosystem.
What further collaborations or initiatives are you planning to have in India?
This campaign forms part of the first step in our journey in connecting with this audience. It is a test (of sorts) from which we hope to extract many lessons that inform our future endeavours within the country. We hope to continue to inspire more people to join our free-knowledge mission.