A common theme throughout these blog posts is the power of a crowd. Businesses either thrive or suffer based on strong public opinions. Social media, blogs, and mobile phones allow people to not only have access to breaking stories, but to contribute information to the stories as well. Crowds can actually be used as valuable resources of both information and product promotion.
In its basic definition, crowdsourcing is pulling a wide amount of information from a large group of people. In many instances, this is conducted from the Internet. A Wired article describes an example of crowdsourcing by describing an instance where a project director, Claudia Menashe, was able to go to iStockPhoto and search through thousands of photos uploaded by users. Menashe then chose as many photos as she liked, each one only costing a small fee. Instead of relying on finding a professional photographer, she went to a place where thousands of users willingly posted their work. This process was easy, inexpensive, and productive. With more sites thriving on communities and allowing users to upload original content, there is a good chance anyone can find useful information. Photographers are motivated to keep posting their work because of the idea of being chosen. This enthusiasm means unlimited resources for those searching for the perfect stock photo.
Paul Lewis explains in his TED Talk instances in which crowdsourcing helped The Guardian obtain necessary details on two different stories involving causes of death: Ian Tomlinson and Jimmy Mubenga. Both deaths were the result of something happening in font of witnesses, and in both instances the whole truth was being withheld from the public. Lewis and his team went to Twitter and received first-hand accounts of both causes of death. One bystander actually had video proof of police brutality causing the death of Tomlinson. These situations show that professional journalists have struggled with not having all of the resources for their stories. Their knowledge can be limited to time and space if they do not know how to effectively seek out information. Luckily, the Internet has created global communities and offers sites where people can share information quicker than ever. Lewis and his team were able to find first-hand accounts just from inquiring on social media.
Sometimes it may seem that crowdsourcing is too good to be true. There are instances where crowds are responsible for misinformation, such as the spread of hoax stories. The article “Who the Hell Writes Wikipedia, Anyway?” shows that experts take time to write majority of the content on its pages. Professionals who work for the site simply edit links and conduct minor tweaks, but the bulk of information we read was written by someone from the crowd. Chances are if someone is taking enough time to write an encyclopedia article on the subject, one must have a strong background in the matter. Many may take comfort in the statistics that show most people who take time to post online are highly educated professionals. However, it is up to the person seeking out information to always double check any sources.
One of my friends wanted to see what happens when one attempts to update Wikipedia. He found an article on a public figure and made a change on the whereabouts of this person. Immediately, he received an e-mail regarding his change. The e-mail asked for more information on why he made the change, and if he had any sources or proof. My friend realized that the posts are constantly monitored for accuracy. He chose not to respond to the e-mail, and his edit was removed. While Wikipedia is frequently debated on its basis of a credibility, it is using crowdsourcing to obtain information just like major news sources will do.
Because there is no limit to the possibilities that can come from a large group of people with freedom and a voice, it is important to implement crowdsourcing in an appropriate strategy based on achievable goals. Businesses looking to promote their product and keep up with current trends would be best advised to use an open call strategy inviting everyone to participate in the gathering of information. Using the Internet for an open call would be the best way to attract a large crowd. One study specifically mentions the concept of Co-creation along with open call crowdsourcing. Co-creation not only asks customers for their opinions on products, it actually involves them in the process and makes them feel like they are part of something with a purpose.
American Idol owes its long-run success to crowdsourcing. There was a time when it was the most popular, high-rated show on television. They premised their show on the fact that anyone could audition to be the next big pop star. Those uninterested in the spotlight still had the opportunity to choose the winner by casting their votes each week. The producers behind the show went to the crowd for resources: participants, voters, commentators. So many shows took this idea and created their own reality show with voting such as The Voice and Dancing with the Stars.
Last year, American Idol took the concept of crowdsourcing and co-creation even further. Relying on its own popularity as well as the fan bases of Coca-Cola and singer Carly Rae Jepsen, the ultimate user experience was created with the Perfect Harmony Project. Each week leading up to the American Idol finale, viewers were able to use Facebook to vote on song lyrics for Jepsen’s new single. Not only was this project a goal for increasing viewership, but it also served as a productive way to create something new: a song. Their strategy was also smart in that they relied on the motivation of the crowd, but did not give the crowd complete control. Voting on pre-made lyrics was a much more organized approach than having thousands of users attempt to come up with their own words.
Notice how the ads enhance crowd enthusiasm by reiterating that they helped create a new song! The countdown for the poll also pushes for voters to participate quickly to ensure their vote is submitted.
Businesses can adapt similar strategies by having their consumers vote on new products. Some can even try holding contests in which customers create their own product to be sold by the brand, similar to Lays chips and TOMS Shoes. Customer excitement is valuable when using crowdsourcing, because the enthusiastic individuals will be willing to do their best to achieve the company’s goal.
It is important to promote organizations in a way that will get crowds excited. Businesses should focus on how their product can be used in everyday life. Does their product work well in social settings? Does it work for the greater good of the world? Does it make people feel better about themselves? One way to find out answers to these questions is to ask the crowd. Once a community is established about a certain product, the organization can then involve that crowd in a variety of promotional activities. If a crowd is passionate, their own motivation will go a long way for the success of an organization.