The Pros and Cons of Crowdsourcing

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Tips for Success

While crowdsourcing ideas may seem simple enough, there are several ways that companies can get the most out of their endeavors, according to advertisers and vendors. "You have to think about what the outcome should be, how you'll communicate your goals, curate the content, and what you'll do with it," says Lisa Arthur, chief marketing officer of marketing automation firm Aprimo.

A few years ago, Arthur organized a crowdsourcing exercise during a cocktail party at a trade show. Using a long strip of paper that was attached to a wall, marketers were invited to jot down their concerns and thoughts on what improvements were needed in the marketing industry. Arthur and her colleagues came away from the event with hundreds of suggestions and marketing ideas that the company still uses today, as well as fodder for a white paper, Imperatives of the Marketing Revolution.

"Crowdsourcing," Arthur notes, "is an effective approach for getting people to help you shape something that's an idea into a tangible asset, whether that's a piece of content, white paper, video, all the way into strategy, depending on what your need is and what the idea is."

As a marketing tool, crowdsourcing is best used to understand your audience and marketplace, according to Scott Mires, creative director at MiresBall, a branding and marketing agency. "The most positive way to use crowdsourcing is to create an ongoing dialogue [with consumers] about where you want your brand to go."

If you expect to run more than one contest or crowdsourcing campaign, "keep those communities active and invigorated," adds Shail Khiyara, chief marketing officer at Spigit, which specializes in enterprise innovation management, including crowdsourced forecasting. "You want to be able to show what the outcome was of the contest. How did you translate the feedback into action? There needs to be an awareness of the community's accomplishments," he says.

Make sure the crowdsourced video (or print ad) falls in line with the rest of your marketing strategy, advises GeniusRocket's Peter LaMotte. "Tailor the content to your audience and look for relative virality," he says. "If you're a B2B company that sells automotive widgets, you don't care if the video goes viral with high school students."

In addition to keeping online video ads to 60 seconds or less, remember to document the production process, LaMotte adds. "I see a lot of people leave those gold nuggets on the floor," he notes. "When you're filming a TV spot or online video, have someone on set snapping photos and taking notes. You can use that later as behind-the-scenes content on your blog or on YouTube and Facebook." What marketers sometimes forget, according to LaMotte, is that "you're creating more than just a video, you're creating a whole host of content whenever you're shooting a commercial."

Finally, it is important to keep an open mind, says Intel's Ekaterina Walter. "A lot of brands are still under the illusion that they have control over their brands when the truth is…you cocreate your brand with your customers and the sooner you realize that, the stronger your brand will be," she says.

Associate Editor Judith Aquino can be reached at jaquino@infotoday.com.

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