Chapter 9: CrowdSourcing

Introduction to Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing on social media has always been my favorite subject and there are two reasons for it; firstly, crowdsourcing has immensely helped me fetch a lot of answers to serious queries that I had raised on social media (both professional and personal). Secondly, I believe that crowdsourcing is one of the finest benefits that social media can offer to businesses or their owners by involving a cadre of customers in key research, marketing, branding, product, and business development processes.

Crowdsourcing has always been there, only being revamped now after the advent of the internet. Soliciting contributions from followers for your services is crowdsourcing. In the past, this would have been a tedious process but now with the advent of social media, the process has become easier and has enabled a better reach for its audience. In Chapter 3, we saw the concept of a transparent piggy banking theory. Collecting funds for an NGO, like asking your followers to comment or tweet or share is a way of crowdsourcing. You can see what others are contributing and you also enable others to see the same, thus staying transparent.

Reasons Why Businesses Should Crowdsource

In the process of crowdsourcing, a brand taps into the collective intelligence of its audience openly at large to accomplish tasks related to business that company would either perform or assign a designated agent (usually an employee) or a third party vendor. Crowdsourcing can be of many types: Crowdsourcing of creative work, Crowdsourcing of ideas, Crowdsourcing of tasks, and Crowdsourcing of expertise and intelligence. Social media has helped obtain collective intelligence in an easier way and many businesses use social media to crowdsource for various reasons:

Expand Size of Talent Pool:

Have you ever come across a brand that hosts contests such as design a logo, pick a tagline for the brand, and create an advertisement contest? Well, these are the brands that are testing the power of crowdsourcing to find out a better solution to their problems. Instead of just hiring an agency or employing one person to meet the objectives, the brand hosts a contest and seeks responses from the audience to get work done. In return, most participants simply want some personal recognition, a sense of community, or at most, a financial incentive. With increasing entries of the contest, brands search for the value in the pool of talent.

Case Study 9.1:

Micromax in association with Talenthouse India (community of artists) hosted a logo re-design contest on Facebook as well as on the host site and the winner in return received personal recognition on Micromax’s website + an Apple MacBook Pro. Participants were asked to design the logo, before a given date, on the young and dynamic theme of the brand and the best entries were decided on the vote it received from the audience in the community of Talenthouse India and Facebook (crowdsourcing again to finalize!).

Understand Customer’s Perspectives and Quickly Develop Product as Customer Wants:

When a participant participates in the crowdsourcing task hosted by the brand they tend to give honest opinions, creative entries, and feedback for following reasons:

  • Loyalty towards the brand.
  • Incentives offered by the brand to respond.
  • Desire for personal recognition.
  • Restructure their thought process.

Brands can use crowdsourcing concept in different phases of product or marketing life cycle to learn from customers or to make use of their talent. When customers use their creative talent they also put their perspectives in place while designing them.

Community platforms can also be used to launch the first look of the product by sharing photos and videos and can seek public opinion before launching the finalized product (provided if you really would like to showcase the innovation to the world).

For Example: Crowdsourcing ideas for “Things that Indians Say” was the campaign launched by Chumbak a popular Indian startup that manufactures creative magnets, mugs, posters, etc. The responses received via these campaigns helped the brand engage audience, get quotes from different parts of India representing different regions, and help developing products with the most creative, popular, and used quotes by Indians.

Immensely Helps Understand Market Behavior:

Geographical barriers of culture and communication are so strong that you will always realize brands are perceived differently in different countries and there are differences in communications, emotional connections, and overall culture in a nutshell. Crowdsourcing of creative ideas or opinions on a particular subject through social media platforms helps brands understand the behavior of the market towards the brand and the communication. The whole process of seeking and understanding brainstormed ideas from different people across the world helps brands track and optimize their marketing to reach a broader market and save cost.

Minimize Labor and Research Expenses:

For many brands crowdsourcing just happens as and when the community is developed on social media in the format of conversations with customers. The Return On Investment of crowdsourcing is not just about getting the end product of your desired objective, it is also about how much you gain out of your campaign, how innovative they are, how much it engaged your audience, and how your business ended up saving money by eliminating the costs of marketing practices.

To get lots of brainstormed ideas from your target audience you need not have to organize a focus group or run surveys physically you can ask your network on social media or members of your community to give suggestions for the business problem. Thus helping you save penny and at the same time get amazing ideas from your real evaluators, your customers! Remember as seen above in the case studies, giving an incentive or running a contest can help you get more inputs and exposure for your crowd sourced brainstorming. Brands also get database of responses which can be archived for references.

Engaging to Create Anticipation, Excitement, and Brand Value:

To engage audience on a regular basis and to get the brainstormed ideas from the experts in the community, excitement can be created by posting difficult cases, Echovme regularly hosts “Solve Case Study” on its Facebook page—a basic marketing problem is posted in the format of an image-seeking solution from the community, resulting in responses from experts which help us learn more from the real life experiences and practices and at the same time educating other people in the community . The usual objectives of crowdsourcing campaigns are to achieve the desired value and responses from the audience and also to create excitement in the community. The more the excitement you generate via the announcements for crowdsourcing, the more the anticipation you create among the target audience.

For Example: HP hosted a crowdsourced community song engagement activity encouraging its fan base on Facebook to participate with lyrics, video, and music for the first ever community song called “Rise Up,” a song created by the community, for the community on the occasion of crossing 1,00,000 fans on Facebook.

The sourced lyrics of the song from the community were given to a young talented musician who had earlier won “Beats Audio Music” contest hosted on the HP fan page in the past year of its social media presence. Pictures of participants who gave lyrics were used in making of the video for the song. Thus making it a complete “Social Media Community Song” crowdsourced from the community and produced for the same. Thus making it a really exciting campaign.

Crowdsourcing Community, a Business Idea:

Using a network or community to crowdsource is not just a campaign; it could be a business idea too. There are many platforms or networks that help businesses crowdsource talent or ideas. Such platforms are neither social networking sites by itself nor are they a hub for the businesses and individuals to post requirements and community members to pick it up. Jademagnet.Com in India is one technology platform and a marketplace of opportunities for those with a creative inclination and technological background at the same time businesses can look at the profiles of designers associated, if impressed they can host their requirements in the format of contests which goes to the network and the best response selected by the business gets the prize money.

Helps Spread WOM:

It’s the era of crowdsourcing ideas as well as crowdsourcing decision making based on received ideas. Most brands prefer to run voting mechanism for the ideas received through crowdsourcing contests, based on the votes the winners are decided—putting the burden on the participants to get enough votes for their idea to win, resulting in ample word of mouth.

Case Study 9.2:

FirstCry.com that has more than 3 lakh fans on Facebook hosted a crowdsourcing photo contest for picking the Facebook timeline cover image of a baby. The contest was announced via Facebook status updates and through advertisements for which the brand received more than 740 entries from different parents across India. The winner was to be decided on the basis of the most number of shares a photo received, that encouraged participants to share and requested others to share the photograph thus helping spreading word of mouth about the contest as well as increasing the visibility of the brand. The picture of the baby who won the contest received more than 200 shares from different original profiles thus standing ahead of all the other 740 entries.

What Did Brand Achieve?

  1. Helped business spread the word about firstcry.com through personalized way of communication by asking parents to post pictures and later share it from the album of brand’s Facebook page. Let us assume that there were about 740 entries to the contest, if on an average 1 photo received 20 shares based on campaigning it becomes about 14,800 shares. If on an average each person who shared has 100 friends in their network, the personalized visibility of Firstcry.com reached to 14,80,000 people, thus reaching a huge mass.
  2. Since FirstCry.com is all about buying products for toddlers, this was an interesting way to engage audience to create brand awareness and establishing its identity.
  3. Brands can also learn how aggressive Indian parents are to promote their kids, thus using such concepts in the future can benefit brands further.
  4. Helps in Recruitment: “Miller—High Life” was in search of candidates who live by the motto “Work hard party harder” and it chose Facebook to crowdsource talent in an innovative way and was highly successful in receiving thousands of profiles (refer to the case study “The Coolest Jobs in the HR and Social Media”). In a similar fashion FOX Traveller, a TV channel, created an interactive application to source for a new candidate for their new show “Freaky Traveller Hunt,” the application sought interested fans to submit application with crazy videos and photographs via the application itself. Crowdsourcing concept can be applied to different aspects of business provided your objectives are clear and your execution is clean, creative, and non-biased.

By getting your customers involved in campaigns and contests, you end up making them advocates of your brand. With time this relationship of giving and taking will become a complimentary advantage.

Tips for Crowdsourcing

Considering real value in crowdsourcing on social media, here are some generic tips that your business might want to consider while investing in social media. An important mandate of crowdsourcing is to develop a community before asking questions and investing in promoting your campaign (if sourcing for talent/ideas). To get some more thoughtful and collective intelligence, here are some points that you need to take care of:

Keep Asking:

Ask open-ended questions to your customers on social media to facilitate conversations or ask for their opinion about the products you serve. A restaurant owner might want to ask these:

  • What do you eat for breakfast?
  • Share what you eat for breakfast and we will tell you how many calories you eat.
  • Do you like the breakfast spread we have at our restaurant?
  • What do you want us to add or remove from our breakfast spread?

The feedback received can be evaluated collectively which later can be activated as per the requirement of customers and market the “Feedback in Action” feature to create further engagement and customer enthusiasm. Do not forget, your customers are your best evaluators and critics!

Run Polls:

Poll is an easiest way for your consumers to share their ideas and feelings and keep them connected with brands as their opinion is just a click away and do not really require a lot of brainstorming. The responses received in the poll can also be put into the “Feedback in Action” category or can become a topic for your brand’s next conversation on social media platforms. For example, about 70% of the respondents of the recent poll conducted feels “More fruits should be added in the breakfast spread;” what fruits would you like to see in the spread?

Host Contests and Add the Social Spark:

Contests are a crucial part of crowdsourcing as it helps spread word about the event across networks, your customers become your promoters to spread the word about your contest. A recent contest by Nokia that was hosted on Facebook to learn its fans’ perspectives on different smart phones and what they perceive about Nokia, asked for “Tell us a reason why would you like to #Switch to Nokia Lumia 800 from your current smart phone,” with a line below “invite your friends and for each friend who enters, you get an extra chance to win”. This helps brand spread the word through customers only to those people who are most likely to participate in the contest.

It is advisable to host contests around festive seasons as it gives your customers an opportunity to participate with all the enthusiasm and make their festival special. You will always notice brands hosting “Colors of Holi” contest during Holi season and encouraging their audiences to click pictures and post it to participate in the contest. In a similar fashion Kurkure came up with a crowdsourcing contest using Talenthouse, India—design the Diwali gift box contest for its products with prize money of Rs. 1,00,000 as first prize and Rs. 25,000 for the first runner-up.

Ensure to add social features to the contest to make sharing possible and help spread word of mouth about the contest.

Give Incentives and Recognitions:

Incentives and recognitions are crucial aspects of crowdsourcing. A free product or a discounted product or services can be offered to the winners and since the brand name is going to be in the top of the mind because of their participation, the brand can offer all of them a special discount to increase the footfall. If the crowdsourcing contest’s aim was to source talent or design, the brand can choose top three or top five winners instead of just choosing and awarding only one design which is finalized. Announce the name of the winners with their photographs on your social media channels (after their consent) with display of their ideas alongside to give their talent some more exposure. Ensure the prizes you offer are relevant to your brand!

People on social media love sharing their opinions, ideas and talent on different platforms. When you ask for feedback, do not be discouraged if you receive a negative feedback; consider it as a collective constructive criticism that helps shape your business better. While crowdsourcing, engage people differently; keep a mixture of poll, contests, questions, and surveys to keep it interesting.

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