Earlier this year, crowdsourcing was used to improve efficiency in an unlikely place: a school district.Poway Unified School District in San Diego wanted to improve safety in its schools, so it built a platform to get feedback from all the stakeholders.
Staff from all parts of the district weighed in, and everyone from bus drivers to cafeteria workers to teachers voted on proposed ideas. An algorithm kept up with the most popular concepts, and by the end of the process, a whole new support system for K-12 students was born.
If schools, which are known for red tape, can utilize crowdsourcing to make their “businesses” better, surely your tech company can do the same thing. Because of the space they operate in, tech companies can easily engage a large part of their audience through email, Twitter, or Facebook on a regular basis. This makes them well-suited to crowdsourcing efforts.
Why Crowdsourcing Works
A good crowdsourcing campaign can take a lot of time. It may be easy to write off the possibilities because it doesn’t seem worth the investment, but there are so many benefits to crowdsourcing that it’s well worth the time spent running a campaign.
1. Marketing: Known as the magic “M” word, marketing is vital. In the frenetic pace of today’s world, the more eyeballs you can get to your site, the better. If your campaign incentivizes users to share content, they end up doing your marketing for you. For example, a design contest leads participants to reach out to their networks to have people vote for them.
2. User-generated content: Good content is hard and expensive to produce, but it’s possible for a company to crowdsource it. One example of this can be found in the early days of Bleacher Report, when the company relied on locals to “report” on their favorite teams.
3. Feedback and data: Whenever you want to make changes or find out how your customers feel about a certain aspect of your business, the easiest way to find out is to ask. This kind of crowdsourcing ensures that you provide exactly what your customers want.
4. User engagement: Related to marketing, this benefit strengthens your relationship with your audience. Fun and quirky crowdsourcing campaigns can be exciting for both sides and will increase your customer loyalty. Doritos has utilized this for years with its “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign.
Plan Your Campaign
A true crowdsourcing campaign does take some time. It’s not as simple as putting up a question on Facebook or Twitter. There are different things to consider when planning, and the answers to these questions will influence what kind of campaign you run.
1. What are your goals? Do you want to engage current users, collect data, create brand awareness, find a new product, drive sales, or do something else?
2. Who are you trying to reach? Do you want to engage your existing user base, or do you want to reach a new audience?
3. What technology will you use? The Poway Unified School District built a new platform for its campaign. Will you need to do that, or can you use a pre-existing platform?
4. How much will it cost? Everything has a price, and crowdsourcing is no different. Research all the costs involved, and make sure your business can handle the initial expense before you get going.
Creative Ways to Crowdsource
So, you know you want to crowdsource, and you’ve done your research. What’s the best campaign to launch?
Ultimately, it really comes down to the kind of business you have and the audience you want to reach. Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Product development: If you make consumer products or apps, consider letting your customers come up with the next big thing. This kind of campaign can range from users submitting designs to customers voting on proposed new features. Quirky is a great platform for social product development. It allows users to submit invention ideas, and then everyone votes. Quirky takes the winning ideas while the community continues to participate during production. Ultimately, users get a share of the royalty pool when the product launches.
2. Design contests: This is probably the most popular form of crowdsourcing. Companies ask for submissions for designing a new product, and customers vote on their favorite. When it’s done right, this form of crowdsourcing can really engage current and potential customers. The Dallas Mavericks recently crowdsourced their new jersey design and enjoyed a huge increase in popularity.
3. Content: Crowdsourcing content can give businesses access to a large pool of talented writers, musicians, filmmakers, and designers. Rather than using expensive agencies, companies can crowdsource their next logo, commercial, or editorial. MOFILM is a crowdsourcing platform that allows companies to use independent filmmakers to create videos. Even big names like Reebok, Coca-Cola, and Chevrolet have used MOFILM to produce videos for their brands.
4. Prove your concept: Crowdfunding is another way of crowdsourcing. Platforms like Kickstarter are great for raising money, but they also help fledgling businesses prove their concepts. If the best way to prove a concept is to have customers pay for your product, crowdfunding allows that to happen before you even develop a full prototype. A successful crowdfunding campaign reveals the market for a new album, movie, or product.
Crowdsourcing is all about giving users a voice. Through crowdsourcing, you can show your customers that you care what they think and that you trust them to develop your business. When you build trust like this, you organically grow brand advocates and loyal fans, which means more success for your company.
About the Author:
Kevin Tighe II is the co-founder and CEO of LA-based startupWeBRAND, a crowdsourcing and e-commerce platform where influencers team up with their fans to build brands through limited-edition products and brand licensing. Connect with Kevin onTwitter andGoogle+.