The Pros and Cons of Crowdsourcing

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You've seen them on television and social media: crowdsourced advertisements that have been commissioned by companies and supplied by the public. Companies from global enterprises to small businesses have learned that tapping into the creativity of the masses can be an effective way to get fresh content.

As every marketer knows, churning out a steady stream of new and engaging messages can be difficult. Thanks to social media platforms, however, using crowdsourcing techniques to gather content created by the people for the people is easier than ever. It is therefore no surprise that crowdsourcing ideas and content for advertisements from the public has become a common tool in advertisers' tool kits.

As analysts and industry experts point out, though, not all companies are using crowdsourced content to its fullest advantage. Read on to find out what makes an ideal crowdsourced ad—and how to get the most out of it.

Engaging Your Customers

It's no secret that the desktop computer market is shrinking. Worldwide shipments of PCs fell by more than 8 percent in the third quarter of 2012, according to reports from Gartner and International Data Corporation.

Decreasing PC sales and a weak economy have dragged down chipmaking and software giant Intel's profits as well. Revenue from Intel's PC Client Group, which deals in PC chips, was down 8 percent in Q3 of 2012, compared to the same quarter from the previous year. Intel president and CEO Paul Otellini noted in a meeting with analysts that the third quarter results reflected "a continuing tough environment."

To Ekaterina Walter, senior social media strategist at Intel and author of Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook's Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg, engaging the company's customers online—particularly Millennials—and showing them that their feedback is valued is critical to Intel's survival.

"We need to involve our customers in crafting our message," Walter tells CRM. "And over the past few years, Intel has been looking at engaging Millennials."

While Intel has used crowdsourced campaigns before, it has never produced one that asked the public for feedback about its brand. "Millennials will engage with brands that invite them in," Walter insists. "We have this huge community of over 14 million fans on Facebook alone…and we need to open ourselves up to them."

Walter partnered with Zooppa, a company that enables clients to gather crowdsourced content through design contests. With Zooppa's help, Intel launched a contest last spring based on one question: What does Intel mean to you?

Members of Zooppa's 185,000-plus community and Intel's followers were asked to create a print ad or a video up to 60 seconds long expressing their perception of the technology firm. "Make your pieces personal, original, dazzling, and fun," Intel suggested in its contest description.

Intel received 116 videos and 345 print submissions. The $20,000 prize money was divided among the video and print first-place winners and runners-up. The $7,000 grand prize for videos went to a video entitled "Freedom Processing," which featured a group of people emitting sounds that added up to a staccato rendition of the Intel jingle.

The first-place print submission, "Intel, My Creative Paper," netted $2,000 and consisted of a picture-in-a-picture concept of clouds and an ocean made with white crumpled paper and an Intel laptop displaying a rough sketch of the same design on its screen.

The contest was a success, according to Walter, because it sparked conversations about Intel and provided a virtual pile of branded artwork.

"We received many interesting submissions, some of which are on our pinboard on Pinterest called 'Fan Love,'" Walter says. "I will be looking at other ways to further incorporate them into our other social networks so we can say, 'Look at the great things our customers have shared with us.'"

In addition, Intel will continue to develop crowdsourced campaigns that ask consumers for their input, Walter adds. "The reality is a lot of brands—including ours—are still learning how to engage with our customers. But if we don't open ourselves up to our communities, we'll be clueless."

Asking customers for their opinions and showcasing their contributions is a smart way to keep your brand fresh and in touch with consumers, notes Gavin Heaton, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

"The end-to-end process is important, and crowdsourcing is a great way to engage your customer," Heaton says. "One of the benefits of crowdsourcing is that it closes the loop on customer direction. You have an ongoing engagement around the product, how it's used, how it's shared, etc., and if someone contributes to the product through product creation or promotion, then it's a powerful way of keeping customers involved in your brand."

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