The term “crowdsourcing” has been around for nearly a decade, originally coined in 2006 by Wired writer Jeff Howe. He defined it as the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people. In other words, businesses tap into crowd fund ideas rather than carrying out tasks themselves.
Check out or thoughts on innovative ideas.
That really surprises me, how about you?
More to learn: The Secrets to Building an Innovative Culture
Crowdsourcing is frequently found in conversation alongside its partner in crime – crowdfunding. Often used interchangeably, these terms do have different meanings.
While crowdsourcing represents the specific tool or talent you need to accomplish a task, crowdfunding is the capitalrequired to accomplish it. Think of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, for example. These are places where people can share their ideas with potential donors and raise money to bring those ideas to life. But crowdsourcing is where the actual project gets done.
Writing effective questions for a crowdsourcing community is an art as well as a science. Here are 5 top tips that we’ve learned to help create an interesting, engaging, productive and innovative challenge:
Crowd fund … a need not a want
Successful crowdsourcing usually tackles challenges that are both interesting and important to our organisation. This seems obvious but it pays to check that all our stakeholders are supportive of the challenge.
In this way the winning ideas have more chance of being developed and commercialized.
Does our question qualify as a ‘burning platform’ that is urgent and important? Would answering it increase growth or avoid a serious market issue? Is it a question that we have failed to answer internally? If so, our question probably qualifies as ‘interesting’ to our organisation.
Therefore a need and more than a want.
Your challenge question needs to be interesting to the crowd or community you are engaging to ensure enthusiastic participation.
This means it should be relevant to our participants and motivating to potential business partners with appropriate incentives which combine both financial and non-financial benefits.
Crowd fund … challenging test
Interesting Questions should neither be too broad nor too narrow in scope. Broad questions like ‘Can you help us create a new product’ contain no real information or clues about what a good answer might be.
And therefore tough to get the meaning, yes?
Narrow questions that are too specific leave no room for imaginative ideas and tend to be full of jargon. They are often answers masquerading as questions.
Good crowdsourcing challenge questions occupy the middle ground and are clearly answerable.
An Interesting Question needs to be jargon-free, compelling and 20 words or less. To write an Interesting Question, we start with ‘Can you help us…’. Imagine your question on a poster in a park; if it would work there then it is likely to get circulated, e.g. on Twitter, and attract more attention.
Crowd fund … road-tested
Once we have a few candidate Interesting Questions it is important to test them out. Do non-experts understand? Are people excited? Can they think of answers? If so, our question qualifies as ‘interesting’.
Which questions do you have that you want to share with a crowd, and do they meet the 5 principles above? Here are a few examples of crowdsourcing challenge questions that we like and have worked well for us on previous projects. Which do you prefer and why?
Many companies have caught on to the attention surrounding crowdsourcing, and have sought out innovative ways to get their valued customers involved in production and promotion processes. Crowdsourcing brings people together online, so there aren’t any geographical constraints to get in the way. This allows brands access to untapped talent that might not be located in their area. Crowdsourcing generally occurs through social media, so businesses can gain insight into what consumers are talking about, interested in, and where their talents lie.
Over the last decade, brands have found new and interesting ways to get their audiences involved through crowdsourcing.
But how, exactly, can you do that?
Specifically, here are 5 ways to make the most of the best ideas from the past few years.
Doritas – crash the Super Bowl
Doritos is arguably one of the first companies to take advantage of crowdsourcing for an advertising initiative. They were one of the first – and today, still one of the best.
For the past nine years, they’ve used consumer-created ads for one of their 30-second Super Bowl spots, and the upcoming Super Bowl in February will be their 10th and final one.
I have watched them all.
The “Crash the Super Bowl” contest has continuously grown in popularity, receiving over 32,000 submissions to date. Over the years Doritos has given out $7 million in prize money, while also serving as a platform for creatives to get their names out there in the advertising and video production communities.
These ads have become iconic for the brand, positioning them as a comedic mainstay among the most reputable Super Bowl advertisers.
For their final contest, Doritos will give away $1 million and the opportunity to work with esteemed director Zach Snyder, best known for movies like 300 and Man of Steel. The winner will get to take part in a currently hush-hush project for Warner Brothers and DC Comics, so you can imagine the expectations that the winning submission will have to meet.
Videos will be reviewed by a judging panel that includes Frito-Lay executives, and the top three finalists were recently announced.
Doritos has aired such memorable commercials over the past decade that it’s hard to believe they were submitted by seemingly average consumers! Giving marketers and creators the opportunity to show off their skills not only sheds light on the amount of undiscovered talent out there, but it makes Doritos an approachable, relatable brand.
One of my favorites comes from the 2011 Crash the Super Bowl winner, proving that you should never tease a hungry pug with Doritos chips.
Utilizing a crowdsourced ‘virtual creative department’ listing 3,200 international participants to create a market overview out of the ideas of thousands of participants, as well as guide the marketing model for the brand.
After 31years with ad agency Carmichael Lynch, Harley Davidson is basing its core creative marketing development on CS, as participants are receiving assignment briefs on the Squirrel Fight ‘digital engine’ via Harley Davidson’s new ad partner – V&S.
Starbucks – white cup contest
Starbucks is the perfect example of a crowdsourcing opportunity that arose from an unlikely place. Baristas started noticing that Starbucks’ signature white cups were serving as blank canvases for designers and artists to doodle on, so they got the idea to start a campaign around these simple designs.
And in the spring of 2014, the White Cup Contest was born.
Customers were encouraged to decorate their Starbucks cup with an original design, take a photo, and submit it on social media with the hashtag #WhiteCupContest. Over the course of a few months, over 4,000 unique submissions were received.
The winning design was submitted by Pittsburgh art student Brita Lynn Thompson, and her image was then used on the limited edition reusable cup for 2014.
Wow. An excellent design.
Each year, Starbucks releases a new design for these reusable plastic cups, which you can purchase for $1 and use about 30 times. As an incentive to reduce waste, you receive a 10 cent discount each time you use one. So in essence, Starbucks is paying you to use a more sustainable product.
This is all a part of the company’s continued efforts to encourage customers to go green and prioritize environmentally-friendly products, and it was a great way to shed light on the talent of a young artist.
Lego have crowdsourced the design of many of their new products. By providing downloadable design software that runs on customers’ machines, they can design and build their own Lego online and then purchase the very concept they created.
By engaging their customers alongside their in-house a creative department, they are able to accurately gauge customer needs, spot trends and judge the potential size of the market for each product set.
Lego also reported that their design costs have been reduced to a staggeringly low level while increasing customer satisfaction to practically 99.9%.
What’s next: Generating Ideas by Convergent Thinking
Airbnb – shorts
Airbnb’s marketing strategy has always been focused on vivid, high-quality imagery to give consumers insight into different travel destinations and accommodations. However, with all of the locations around the world that they service (over 34,000, to be exact), they needed help gathering images of each place.
That’s where crowdsourcing came in.
In 2013, Airbnb launched its first video crowdsourcing campaign on Vine. Through a series of user-submitted videos, they combined them together to make a short film called “Hollywood & Vines.” The premise of the film was travel and adventure around the world, and ultimately 100 of these 6-second clips were selected for the nearly four and half minute video.
This campaign was developed in conjunction with Airbnb’s 2013 sponsorship at the Sundance Film Festival.
In 2014, they took a slightly different approach to their campaign, utilizing Instagram to collect video contributions. Using the hashtag #AirbnbShorts, users submitted 15-second videos that summarized why travelers would want to visit their city.
This was an attempt to shed light on potentially lesser-known locations, while also giving that local vibe. The winner of the contest, Scott Allen Perry, received a complimentary flight to London, a week’s stay at an Airbnb property, and a ticket to the Sundance Film Festival.
His video gave viewers a sneak peek into all that New Orleans has to offer – take a look! You will appreciate it.
These two campaigns closely tie in to Airbnb’s purpose and goals, which are to encourage people to explore places they’ve never been before, and to do so at an affordable price. By allowing customers to share stories about their favorite city, people can get a more personalized, inside look at cities all around the world and decide where their next adventure will be.
It also draws a parallel to what crowdsourcing is all about. Airbnb’s premise is user-provided housing and crowdsourcing is all about user-provided ideas, so this couldn’t have been a better match for their marketing strategy.
While some companies are still figuring out how to utilize crowdsourcing effectively, many others have already taken advantage of this tactic. If you’re looking for ways to connect with your customers on a more personal level, get their feedback on an idea, or show your creative side, crowdsourcing might be an effective strategy for you.
And you don’t have to be a huge international brand like those mentioned to get involved. Simply taking the time to survey customers on a new product or service offering, hold a contest, or get feedback from thought leaders in your industry are all effective and inexpensive ways to help you make the smartest decisions for your business.
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he writes about topics to help improve the performance of small business. Find him on G+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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Writing Clever Crowd Fund Ideas … See Examples