Community Management, Guest Posts, Social Media Strategy, Brand Communities, Crowd Sourcing

Crowdsourcing: Beyond the Basics

Guest post by Clinton Bonner, Director of Sales at Chaordix, specializing in the technology and services of managed crowds for open innovation and social research.

What is the next generation of crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing is evolving beyond the shiny contest model (Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl”) and into something more meaningful to the brands embracing it and the consumers contributing to it. There is no better ‘bang’ for your buck than a well thought out and properly executed crowdsourcing initiative.

Market research is as important to most companies as the payroll department. Yet, it seems to be a stagnant mode of gathering feedback. Surveying, physical and online focus groups and opinion polling are still the primary tactics companies depend upon for market prediction and go to market strategy. It is uni-directional, as static as a physical newspaper, and it assumes the company seeking quality answers is asking the right questions.

This is where crowdsourcing comes in.

The 3 C’s of Next Generation Crowdsourcing: Co-Creation, Constant, and Control

Co-Creation

There are people out there that love your product. Embrace these people. There are people out there that currently hate your product because it isn’t giving them what they need. Embrace these people as well. After the socially awkward embracing is done, invite both groups in during the creative process. I’m not talking about a contest to produce a full commercial or send a manned vehicle to space. That’s last year. I mean putting in place a method that allows your consumers to contribute in a variety of ways, most often rather easily with immediate recognition of the contribution.

Some people are amazing at bold ideation, while others are better at refining and iterating something previously suggested. Some simply want to vote or rank what they find appealing, and others; well they just like to hang out to see what’s up.

The output from co-creation can be a market test and sharper go-to-market strategies, so you know what your consumers want before you take it to market. It can also be a real product – something your internal R&D lab hadn’t thought about that your consumers are clearly calling for.

Not all innovation or improvements to existing products and services are going to come from your crowd, nor should they by any means. But the communication lines do need to be in place so that when brilliance is spoken, you are listening. Effective crowdsourcing delivers exactly this and it can super-charge your social media efforts along the way.

Constant

As crowdsourcing evolves, we’ve learned that initial efforts had a defined end date, and the vast majority of energy, buzz, and brand-love dissipated over a short stretch of time. We know better now. Next generation crowdsourcing involves multiple initiatives, sometimes cross-brand, often cross-vertical, happening in parallel and offering the user a constant steam of new involvement opportunities.

Micro-tasks are a great example of this. Next-generation crowdsourcing always recognizes effort via reward, social status, and incentives that are meaningful to the user. Think frequent flyer program, but without having to go through airport security to attain the rewards. As the ability to deliver these tasks via mobile meshes with geo-location technologies and intelligent advertising, this ‘C’ of the three C’s will truly blossom and become powerful for the brands that get it right.

Control

Crowdsourcing, much like focused social media efforts, isn’t about giving up control, even though it seems that way before you start, just ask Scott Monty of Ford. (He doesn’t know me, so please don’t actually ask…) Do you think Ford has more or less ‘control’ of their current and future brand image today versus five years ago?

Compared to before, this company is holding the reigns – albeit loosely and in new ways. They have found that crucial balance between having an open consumer rapport, yet skillfully herding the masses to participate in ways that are beneficial to the brand and the company’s bottom line. They have nimbly created a social “choose your own adventure” for their consumers, who by the way tend to grab 3 friends and bring them along for the ride.

I would argue that Ford should go leagues further, by embracing a consistent crowdsourcing approach that constantly empowers consumers (and would-be consumers) of all Ford vehicles with opportunities to co-create, relevantly share and earn legitimate rewards that drive loyalties and purchasing habits for years to come.

If you can begin a crowdsourcing initiative in 2010, and that contributor purchases a new Ford in 2013 because she has accrued a “Digital Down Payment” along the way due to her consistent and quality participation, is that not ultimate control of the consumer’s purchasing habits?

Now, take this a step further, you buy a new car once every 3 – 6 years, but how often do you buy a cup of coffee and a bagel?

Brands need to stop viewing crowdsourcing and open innovation strategies as ‘giving up creative control’ and rather understand what this really is – co-created market research that is more accurate. When adroitly coupled with ongoing social strategies, next generation crowdsourcing offers a remarkable way to help deliver happy, impassioned, and loyal consumers.