If you aren’t leveraging crowdsourcing in your business, you should start.
Crowdsourcing has been used by cultures worldwide for centuries, though by other names. Here are a few early examples:
- The Longitude Prize.
In the 1700’s, the naval powers of the world had mostly explored the high seas, but they were still in a race to make the most of its resources. The British, in an attempt to improve their navigational prowess, turned to their people. Latitude was easy. You could measure it by looking at the sun. But longitude was trickier, and failure to calculate it accurately led to disaster. The government offered a cash prize to anyone who came up with a simple solution to the problem. No one scored the main prize though several people were awarded small purses for their efforts.
- The Oxford English Dictionary.
Topping the list of things that should be consistent is a language’s dictionary, right? Well, prior to the OED, there were many dictionaries for English, and they didn’t agree with each other. To lick this issue for good, volunteers were pulled from the public and tasked with scouring the existing dictionaries. They then created one dictionary from the many others.
- Canned food.
Among the many technologies that made our sophisticated, modern civilization possible is canned food. Canned food was invented in Europe when the French government offered a prize for a method to store perishable foods for Neapolitan’s marching army. Peter Durand claimed the 12,000 Franc prize. Metal cans were ideal for the army because they were lighter than the existing glass canisters.
That’s fine for governments desperate for a solution to a sticky problem. But companies should maintain a distance from their customers, right? Well, not so fast. In this day and age, the perception of executives locked away in an ivory tower can do more harm than good. No one actually believes that corporations are people. Consumers want to see and interact with the faces behind the companies they do business with.
Perhaps more to the point, crowdsourcing is a sneaky—but not unethical—way to get your prospects to tell you how to sell them. Crowdsourcing gets consumers invested in the process. That’s something that straight up advertising doesn’t do well. Consumers get excited when they can play a part in creating something new, even if it’s a new pair of jeans or model of car.
Let’s look at a few ways you can put this powerful process to work in your own business.
1. Tap into Influencers
You can use a service like BuzzSumo to find influencers in your niche. Strike up a relationship with these influencers by favoriting their tweets and retweeting them. @mention them with content you know they like to share—but don’t spam them with your own content. Once you have established a rapport, ask them to seek feedback from their vast follower base your product or service. This process can serve as a launching pad for the tactics that follow.
2. Create an outsourced resource for your niche.
An engaged social media following represents a treasure trove of information. What’s more, actively soliciting this data and turning it into something great will help to establish you as an authority in your niche. Take TourBeats, for instance. The company is crowdsourcing an eBook that consists of submissions from recognized leaders in the industry. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. TourBeats gets a piece of valuable IP, while the experts get their name in something that will see wide distribution. TourBeats plans to update the tome every year, ensuring that it remains relevant. How easily could you do something like this? You can use a tool like BuzzSumo to find the experts and influencers in your own niche.
3. Let other people create value on your own site.
The obvious example of this is the forum, but have you considered allowing people to create articles on your site, too? Obviously, you must do quality control, but what if you could add hundreds of pages to your site over the next few months? Would that impact your social media engagement? After all, your new authors will want to share their work. Just give this new content its own space on your site so your regular readers can easily find your staff’s content.
4. Let your followers do R&D for you.
Wouldn’t it be great if your customers could provide you with a steady stream of new product ideas? Well, they can, and they do. You have to look for it. For instance, you can search Twitter for specific phrases in quotes like, “What I hate about the iPhone is..” Get creative here. People love to complain, and they will appreciate you for giving them the chance to do so. So ask them what they want. You can even create a hashtag for this like, #TellUsWhatYouWant. The benefit of hashtags is that they give people a place to congregate around a certain topic. Plus, a dedicated hashtag will make it easy for you to mine the data.
5. Smooth transitions and name changes.
If you know a big change is coming—like a brand or name change—you can make the process go easier by involving your customers. Say you’re going to change your name, for instance. You could start with a company-wide brainstorming session and then let the customers vote on the finals. If a vote scares you, just ask your customers to give feedback on the finalists. Consumers appreciate being involved in the process, and you will likely see a boost in traffic and engagement. It’s a win-win for everyone. It may interest you to know that several studies have demonstrated the wisdom of crowds. For instance, a crowd of people—based on their average guess— can accurately guess the number of jelly beans in a jar or the weight of an animal even though individual guesses tend to be way off. So letting your customers vote on your new name may not be the worst idea out there.
What’s your take? Let us know in the comment’s section below!