In a recent landmark study - the Accenture Technology Vision 2014 - crowdsourcing was identified as one of the six top trends that are influencing the technological landscape of 2014. Marketers are increasingly tapping into the power of crowds to discover what their customers are enjoying about their product or service, but more importantly, what they are criticising and what recommendations they have for the future.
Crowdsourcing for content marketers
The term crowdsourcing includes everything from user generated content(UCG) like hotel reviews or product ratings, to hiring content producers on freelancer platforms, to running a Facebook competition among your followers to, say, find a name for your company mascot.
There are no exact indications in the Accenture report as to the scale of crowdsourcing activities taking place at the moment, and putting a figure on it is quite impossible, because crowds often volunteer their ideas for free.
However, the Accenture analysts claim that companies are using crowds as an ‘expansion of their workforce’, which increasingly supplements regular content creation. The study states, “Consumers are providing richly detailed information, giving companies an unprecedented level of insight into their products, how they’re used, and the consumers that buy them.”
Technology to collect and use UGC
Certain products are more appropriate for crowdsourcing this user generated content than others. Products which have garnered a large community or strong opinions around them are naturally a great resource for crowdsourcing.
For example, if you want to buy a bluetooth speaker on Amazon, you are likely to read reviews from people who’ve purchased them to find out if you really should spend your hard-earned cash on it, especially as people often have strong opinions about technology and gadgets. Platforms such as Amazon have become increasingly vital to marketing departments as they offer one solution to the problem of content creation - the content is already right there.
Turning to crowds for ideas is not necessarily an entirely new phenomenon in itself - crowds have not suddenly emerged. What has emerged recently, however, is the technology to collect and use this data. All the interactions that emerge when a brand is telling their story, be it on a website, via social media, on forums, YouTube or with blog posts, are really forms of crowdsourcing. They are encouraging customers, and potentially customers, to voice their opinion, ask questions and shape the future of products with their own ideas.
Here are some great ways to get started with crowdsourcing for your business
Get people talking: raise questions online to get feedback from customers. Asking communities for suggestions about what they want to see online is one way of tapping into the potential of crowds. It creates unique content as well as positive experiences and makes customersinstant product advocates.
Organise a contest in which customers produce their own content, such as blog posts, video footage or photos on the social web for prize money. Marketers curate the content and get instant traffic and engagement to die for.
Moderate tweets or comments on content, and respond to these to develop meaningful interactions and spark conversations and debates. These discussions can also offer great material for new content, for example in a newsletter.
Writing e-books is something that also lends itself for brilliant crowdsourcing activities. Content marketers can leverage the brainpower that’s already present on websites and social media.
Don’t forget to think ahead. Crowdsourcing is ideal for developing future marketing projects. Move away from the stifling focus groups and look online for what people are saying about your business.
A story is never complete without looking to the future. Crowdsourcing is very useful for making future market projections.
The difference in outcomes between running small focus groups city-by-city and running a crowdsourcing contest to solicit customer input is enormous.
Responses from 125,000 real-world consumers are gleaned in an instant, with way more ease than sifting through the opinions of the 125 members of a focus group. These are realities that are mind-boggling, but then, so are most future events.