Crowdsourcing: An Overview

Crowdsourcing is a term that many people have heard of over the last couple of years, yet there still seems to be some unfamiliarity with what it is. I thought I would provide an overview, with some contextual examples as they apply to marketing.

Made possible by Web 2.0 technologies and social media, the term was coined by Jeff Howe in a 2006 Wired magazine article. In essence, crowdsourcing is a problem-solving model in which particular issues are communicated to an audience of unknown participants, as an open call for solutions. The audience submits proposed solutions to the problem, and often times is tasked with sorting through the solutions, selecting the best one. For a full overview of crowdsourcing, Wikipedia has an excellent article.

From a marketing standpoint, executed properly, crowdsourcing can be an excellent method of engaging audiences with a brand. By providing a mechanism for feedback and interaction, brands can foster greater loyalty and sense of ownership. The caveat, however, is that for crowdsourcing to work, companies must show that they are willing to embrace and enact on the solutions that audiences propose. Companies can also go further by rewarding those who submit solutions that are implemented.

Several companies have successfully leveraged crowdsourcing as part of their marketing efforts.

Dell, some time after having suffered an online PR disaster, created a forum for participants to contribute and vote on ideas – The website currently attracts 15,000 users a month. So far, they have implemented over 350 of 13,000 ideas submitted. Here is a promotional video for the website.

Venerable consumer giant Procter and Gamble has also made a foray into crowdsourcing. They host contests on online research and development communities, inviting the public to submit solutions related to product design or new ideas on it’sconnect + develop website. So far, more than 30% of problems posted on InnoCentive, one of the community sites P&G uses, have been solved. The Swiffer, a major revenue generating product, came from P&G’s crowdsourcing initiatives.

Have you implemented or contemplated implementing a crowdsourcing strategy for your brand? Do you have any crowdsourcing examples that you’d like to share?

I would love to hear from you.

Special thanks to Chaordix for providing crowdsourcing case studies. They have more available on their website.