There seems to be a lot of talk about crowdsourcing at the moment. It can be a great way to get input into your business, brand or product. This week I’ve been having a closer look at what crowd-sourcing is and how it can be applied to small business.
What is crowdsourcing?
Crowdsourcing is the outsourcing of a task to a wider community – in our case a social media community. This allows you to utilise the knowledge of a large group of people and apply it a specific problem, product or design.
Still confused? I found this great video from What Is Crowd Sourcing that explains it all in very simple terms:
What are the benefits of crowdsourcing
1. Getting your customer invested in your idea. By allowing your community to contribute to a product, design or even name you are giving them a sense of ownership of it, this will encourage them to share and actively promote what you are doing, they are also more likely to become a customer.
2. Talent. Crowdsourcing allows you to gain expertise from people you wouldn’t normally have access to. Other designers or expert opinion can help turn a good product, service or blog post into a great one.
3. Knowing your customer. When we are creating something whether it is a product, a new service or even a blog post it can be hard to know exactly what the customer wants. Crowdsourcing helps you understand your customer fully.
Examples of Crowdsourcing
The BBC and 3G coverage
It was this story about the BBC crowdsourcing UK 3G coverage that inspired this blog post. In this case the data is collected electronically via an Android phone app and is being promoted via the BBC. It will rely on a huge number of users installing and running the application and only an organisation with the reach of the BBC could provide this volume of people. The result will be a map of the UK with 3G coverage highlighted. This will be a fantastic resource as I have found the mobile carriers maps hard to navigate in the past.
Quirky and the Ice Scraper
It was a harsh winter everywhere last year. Social Product Development Company Quirky crowdsourced an impressive Ice Scraper for cars. The Quirky site is designed specifically to crowdsource products, users submit ideas and the community works on them. Users place orders up front and if enough people order it goes into production. So far the ice scraper has received 928 of the 1,200 sales it requires to be manufactured. There are a number of innovative crowdsourced products available on the Quirky website
Dell and Idea Storm
Idea Storm is a Dell customer driven website. It encourages users to submit ideas for products. This enables Dell to engage with their customers, get feedback and innovate new products or services based on customer ideas. Users are able to vote on ideas the most popular are implemented. According to the website out of the 10,000 ideas submitted they have already implemented 400.
How can a small business crowdsource?
I use crowdsourcing a lot for my blog posts. This helps me develop ideas that may be based on my own experience I am always interested in how other people have found a service or what tips and tricks they have used. It can be hard to understand how others uses social media, I am so immersed in it every day I often have a very different view to consumers or clients. For that reason I often go to my Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin communities to get input. It can be a real eye-opener to get other opinions and views.
When I sold hampers I used to get major writers block when it came to naming them. To help me I asked my Facebook fans to come up with some names and I picked the best of the bunch for new products. It saved me time and got my customers involved in the brand.
Discover what to sell
If you are a retailer deciding what and how much stock to buy can be a major challenge, asking your community what they want can help make sure that you have the right stuff and the right amount of it. It’s also a great way of finding out if there is a popular product you had overlooked.
If you’re designing a product or having your website revamped putting a number of solutions to your social media communities and asking them which they prefer can help make difficult decisions. Asking them what features they would like to see before you even start creating is even better at making sure you are creating a customer friendly design.
1. You need a large community In order to get the full benefit from crowdsourcing. Getting input from one or two people is great but knowing which ideas are really valuable requires a mass of responses. This way you can filter the best ideas and ask your community to vote on the best ones. You will need to spend time building and engaging with your community before you can get results from crowdsourcing.
2. Too many chefs spoil the broth. It may be a cliche but cliches often come from experience. By crowdsourcing you could get lots of ideas and lots of differing ideas, implementing every idea that is given to you could result in a hotchpotch of conflicting ideas. You need to make sure everything you implement is consistant and works well together. Filtering ideas and implementing the most popular and the best should help avoid this.
Have you tried crowdsourcing for your small business? Have you any tips I’ve missed or want to share? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
Christina Giliberti says
*Big fan of crowdsourcing alert*
We’re becoming much more socially driven. I remember when the internet was coined a ‘cold’ medium. Those days are gone thanks to this two-way communication and engagement. Crowdsourcing is vital when researching an idea or product. You gain qualitive data direct from the source, you gain loyalty and (as you mentioned) shared ownship of an idea. Marketing has always been about demand and what the customer wants – by asking them in this way, you’re removing the guesswork and appealing to their wants and needs. It helps you stay customer-centric.
When collaboration on ideas and projects – you can ask your fellow online networkers and friends. You are then utilising various skills and ideas, perceptions and knowledge. ‘Two heads are better than one…’
It’s refreshing to see large corporations adopt this approach. The neagtive can be spam, annoyed people when their idea was dismissed, additional staff needed to go through responses. The benefits however can maximise profits and provide businesses with an ‘on tap’ testing/market research audience. Should I mention – at a fraction of the cost of traditional market research and product testing…..
Great post – loved it!
Thanks Christina, Great comment. The more I think about it the more I realise that almost everything we do in social media is crowd sourcing. It is embedded in marketing, we want interaction with customers and the easiest way to do that is to ask questions. I’d love to get a serious crowdsourcing project together, I’m going to put my thinking hat on!
Marie Ennis-O'Connor says
Loved this post Amanda – you have a knack for explaining techie terms and concepts! I only fully realised what this term meant quite recently when I began to crowdsource research and outsource data collection in my work as a health blogger and advocate. It has transformed my blog and my advocacy work. Interesting to see how it can also be applied to the small biz sector to.
Nice post. From an education point of view, there’s a number of teachers out there starting to use crowdsourcing. The tools they have used might spark some ideas for business.
I have used Twitter along with some other teachers to get opinions on a piece of art… e.g. Look at this piece of art. Do you think it is worth €45m? All responses are collated and shared.
One of the top crowdsourcers in education is Tom Barrett (edte.ch/blog). He uses lots of Google apps to share information. There’s even one of “Interesting Ways to use Google Plus in Learning” already!
I think more people do it than realise what it is. I guess with social media it’s a simple way of doing a customer survey 🙂 Good to hear you’ve had good results on your blog. I don’t know how I’d write if I couldn’t ask Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin etc.
Interesting to know it’s being used in education. I guess traditionally we think of education as fixed, as with curriculum, exams that need to be taught to a formula etc. I think I want to go back to school and go to a school like yours where innovation is encouraged!