Insights

Ask and You Shall Receive: A Crowdsourcing Follow Up

10.24.2012 by

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A few weeks back, I touched on the notion of proactive crowdsourcing as a way for organizations to engage their customers, advocates and followers on a new level. Crowdsourcing during a wave of large-scale success can add legitimacy and energy to the initiative.

Assuming times are good and you’ve committed to crowdsourcing, now you need to decide on exactly what to ask your crowd for. While there’s no one-size-fits-all crowdsourcing challenge, there are a number of established approaches that could work for you. Here are two options to consider:

Start your crowdsourcing challenge with a simple list of product concepts or ideas farmed out to a group of loyal customers for feedback.

Let them cull the list down to the best, most marketable products or services. All it takes is a little bit of code to create an online community, then the willingness to listen. You can even gamify the challenge to motivate your participants (more about that here). The difference between the diverse crowd’s conclusions and those of a more homogenous group may be the thing you need to boost sales and build stronger brand loyalty.

Extend creative ownership via an online open innovation portal.

Make it a place where both your loyalists and those curious about your brand can offer up ideas and develop them with a community of likeminded contributors. Then share their compelling ideas across your social media channels. Procter & Gamble’s Connect + Develop community has achieved success through this type of model. The community asks for innovative product submissions, while also matching entrepreneurs and ideators against an existing need.

Regardless of the crowdsourcing ask you land on, you’ll soon find that the crowd’s diversity is the basis of its success.

Different backgrounds, experiences and knowledge sets yield more exploration and less crowd conformity. Author James Surowiecki touches on this in his best-selling book “The Wisdom of Crowds”. He notes, “The simple fact that a group is diverse makes it better at problem solving.” Encourage your crowd to challenge your internal assumptions.

A few caveats before committing to crowdsourcing.

First, make sure you have ample human resources to support a crowdsourcing initiative. Once you launch a crowdsourced action, your community needs to be monitored. Give a participant any reason to believe you’re not listening, and your community will turn into a ghost town. While the natural inclination is to hire young guns to manage crowdsourcing efforts, consider using tenured employees as moderators or analysts too—it’s the ideal “know your customer” refresher course.

Avoid coming across as overly-polished, or even worse, cheesy. Stick to your brand voice and use straight talk where you can. Treat your crowd the same way you would treat a valued colleague.

Finally, don’t ask your crowd for too much, too soon. If crowdsourcing is new to your organization, it’s perfectly acceptable to take baby steps. At the same time, it encourages your participants to focus on a single-minded goal.

We’re just scratching the surface of crowdsourcing. If you’d like to talk more about crowdsourcing strategies and other innovation approaches, connect with us via info@trellist.com.

Neil Dougherty
A strategic consultant with 15 years of experience in politics and financial services, Neil currently leads Social Business at Trellist, architecting service offerings and solutions that help clients harness the power of social networks in their business strategy.