ringcentral-team
RingCentral Team
February 17, 2012

The Power of the Crowd: Why Crowdsourcing Works

When media and entertainment writer-editor Jeff Howe first wrote about the rise of crowdsourcing in 2006, he coined a term that would later take the business world by storm.

Today, crowdsourcing – leveraging an online community for ideas, insights and solutions – has become one of the most innovative strategies for businesses of all sizes. Let’s take a look at how you can make crowdsourcing work for your company.

The Continuing Rise of Crowdsourcing

Big brands like Ben & Jerry’s successfully leveraged fun campaigns that engage core groups (the ice cream giant has a flavor creator, for example) and benefit product design and development. Enterprises like CrowdSpring and MechanicalTurk have made crowd-based solutions their business. Smaller organizations have also taken to crowdsourcing as a cost-effective means of addressing challenges like design and product evaluation.

As we speak, companies are connecting with communities in order to generate major innovations with the help of dedicated enthusiasts. Out-of-the-box entrepreneurs are either integrating the “crowdsource” paradigm into their business models or creating platforms that make business-crowd interactions more effective.

The world is becoming increasingly collaborative and free-flowing. These days, it pays to open up at least part of your business to the public — it keeps you competitive and highlights your brand.

How to Make Your Crowdsourcing Efforts Successful

Crowdsourcing – which hybridizes innovation and promotion – is something all small businesses need to consider. That being said, you should not go into this lightly; it may look easy, but it’s not. In order for your crowdsourcing initiative to be successful, you need to:

  1. Make the Project Parameters Clear from the Start – If you want to yield specific results, you need to be as specific as possible when writing up the instructions for the project. Outlining details like brand and product requirements will make it easier for you and the crowd of your choice to focus on the desired outcome.
  2. Find the Right Crowd – This is now much easier than it used to be, thanks to companies like CrowdSpring and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. As long as you have outlined clear parameters for your project, you can definitely find the right group of people (or the right individual) to help your company achieve its project goals. Whether you want to get feedback for an idea, test a product or have the crowd generate an idea for you, it pays to have the right people providing input.
  3. Give the Right Incentive – Why should the crowd help you? Collaboration doesn’t mean free labor. We’re in an age of working together, but there still needs to be a payoff. Sometimes, the right motivation is as simple as public recognition of the creator’s work. A designer who’s just starting out, for example, would be excited to have a project for your company in his/her portfolio. Other times, you need to offer more tangible incentives — money, prizes, discounts — to inspire cooperation. Know your crowd well enough to offer the right motivation.

Final Crowdsourcing Considerations

Crowdsourcing is powerful, but that doesn’t mean that it should be your go-to strategy when finding business solutions. Managing such an initiative takes a lot of work and may require more time and manpower than you’re willing to provide.

It’s also not foolproof. As promising as the investment may be, there is no guarantee that you’ll get the solution you’re seeking. Be sure to have a backup plan. Recognize when an approach isn’t working for you, figure out why and react accordingly.

Cautions aside, crowsourcing can also provide amazing opportunities for your start-up or small business under the right circumstances.  You just need to put a lot of thought in it and ensure that the benefits outweigh the risks.

Have you tried crowdsourcing for your small business?  If so, any lessons learned and/or tips to share?