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That Got Personal: Crowdsourcing

April 23, 2012

There’s this guy named Chas who will hook you up with ten-thousand dollars if you hook him up with his future wife. I’m not joking; check out his personal dating site. Is this the modern solution to the search for love? Doubtful. But it is a booming marketing technique right now. I introduce to you crowdsourcing.

To crowdsource is to take a task that is typically carried out by employees and to put it in the hands of the public. Like outsourcing, but with crowds (duh). It might be a new term, but I’m sure you’ve seen examples of it. Remember those commercials they used to play on T.V. asking for the viewers to come up with their own jingle? That’s a classic crowdsourcing move.

Did you ever call in? Because, I sure as heck didn’t. This brings us to a poignant fact. Although crowdsourcing is popular, the truth is it won’t reach everyone and it isn’t a inherently successful technique. It, like anything else, must be carried out with skill and care. So, let me fill you in on the different types of crowdsourcing and keep in mind that whatever you use needs to connect to your audience.

Crowd-contests: Crowd-contests abound on Facebook, Twitter and just about every other corner of the interwebs. Some companies have even based their entire structure on these contests. Threadless is  popular online t-shirt vendor, that sells tees sporting images of anything from gangster Abraham Lincolns to artsy prints of a tiger hugging a woman. All of their designs are created by the public and each week about 1,000 are submitted. Those who's designs come out on top in the crowd-voting (my next point) get the paper money, thus motivation.

Crowd-voting: In its most essential form, this is a survey. But, done creatively, this could be the second step of Threadless’s selection process. They ask their customers to vote on the t’s they’d most like to sport and then the staff checks out the top scoring picks to decide which ten will be on their way to the printing press.

Crowd-funding: A perfect, popular example of this would be the company called Kickstarter. They are a platform that allows the public to fund any sort of project they’d like to see carried out. These projects range from the wildly popular watches that raised one million dollars in just 28 hours to smaller art endeavours. People pledge money to help kickstart the artists because with each monetary promise, the backer gets a specific piece of the project. So, you help to kickstart a theatre performance? Thanks, here’s a signed poster from the crew and a tax-deduction.

By knowing your customers and tailoring a contest, vote or creative fund, you can get in touch with them on a much more personal, interactive level. As our friend from hookchasup.com might say, there is strength in numbers. And there are numbers in crowdsourcing.

Photo: Flickr/Thomas Hawk

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