As technology continues to advance, we have a greater variety of information and resources at our fingertips. This is a huge opportunity for any sort of business looking to gather information or expertise at a relatively low cost. Crowdsourcing is one way businesses can benefit from this new technology.
What is Crowdsourcing?
Crowdsourcing (not to be confused with crowdfunding) is basically tapping into the collective intelligence of the public to complete some goal or answer a question. Typically this is done by a business who is looking for a service or solution that would normally be done by the company itself or outsourced to a third-party. Typically the labor is free, but often, if a company poses an issue, and someone is able to resolve that issue, they are rewarded in some way, whether monetarily or not.
Yet free labor is only a narrow part of crowdsourcing’s appeal, and is not necessarily always the case depending on the type of crowdsourcing taking place. The most important reason to crowdsource is that it provides a way to access an extensive talent pool and gain a deeper understanding of what customers really want.
How Big Business Uses Crowdsourcing:
Crowdsourcing comes in many different varieties. Businesses are using crowdsourcing more and more, because the internet allows instantaneous response from a large pool of people.
Coca-Cola & Social Media
Companies like Coca-Cola have used the social media input of customers to contribute ideas. Coca-Cola wanted customers to brainstorm ideas for creating happiness and then they turned that information into a series of short films and TV-commercials entitled: “Where Will Happiness Strike Next?”.
Lay's Flavor Contest
Another example would be Lay’s use of it’s customers flavor submissions to come up with the newest idea to expand its line of chips. Lay’s will narrow the submissions down to four semi-finalists, and then allow customers to purchase the different flavors, taste-test them, and vote for their favorite. The one with the most votes at the end of a certain period of time then wins the competition and becomes the newest Lay’s flavor. Cheesy Garlic Bread has been a winner in the past, and the competition is currently running for this year.
While this sort of crowdsourcing requires input from customers, websites like InnoCentive offer a little bit different spin on crowdsourcing. Instead of posing questions or contests on social media or their personal websites, some companies, like Proctor & Gamble, pose real company problems on websites like Innocentive.com. These problems are typically science based, and were not solvable by in-house talent. The person to solve one of the problems posted on InnoCentive receives a monetary reward between $10,000-$25,000.
How Crowdsourcing is Useful for Small Businesses:
As a small business, you might not have $10,000-$25,000 lying around in reward cash. In fact, you may not even have a complex problem that would be worth that much to you, yet. So how does crowdsourcing help the small business?
Well, it depends on who you're trying to reach.
Reaching Your Customers
Social media is usually the best way to do this. Building your social media account is an important step for any business, and it has the extra perk of providing you with an audience who thought well enough of your business to like your page. Allowing your customers to provide impute can build your relationship with your existing customers, resulting in stronger brand ties.
But what if you are looking for more specialized talents?
There are several websites that will allow you to access the talents you’re searching for. Whether you have a design project or need content created, crowdsourcing websites make it simple if you follow, typically, these basic steps:
1. Post the desired project and specifications
2. Allow time (usually a week) for the projects to be completed and turned in
3. Look through and choose the best applicant
4. Pay the pre-determined amount to your top choice and keep the finished product
Its as simple as that. This can reduce costs and give you a greater variety of talent than you might otherwise have been able to afford. It can even result in you finding a great freelancer to do work for you again in the future.
Crowdsourcing has a variety of uses, but for small businesses it can be a great tool, if used properly, to generate the desired results. It allows companies to have access to talent and skills that might otherwise not be easily accessible.