Getting Started With Crowdsourcing

Whether you’re crowdsourcing promotional activity,content or ideas, here’s a quick set of generally applicable guidelines for getting started – sourced for this article in early 2009 from businesses that crowdsource (see below for acknowledgements).

1 Start Small: Recruit internal champions and nurture small crowdsourcing experiments first. Crowdsourcing veteran and Intuit co-founder Scott Cook suggests seeking organisational buy-in only after you’ve had some success. Otherwise, the countercultural jump of
crowdsourcing may be too big for many brands

2 Remember the 90:9:1 Rule: Temper participation level expectations; only up to 1% of any online community ever contributes actively to anything. 9% may deign to vote, rate or comment, whilst the overwhelming 90% only ever consume content.

3 Get the Motivational Mix Right: Participation in crowdsourcing is motivated by a number of factors but they boil down to the 4Fs – Fame, Fortune, Fun and Fulfilment. Good crowdsourcing initiatives should offer participants a mix of all four Fs.

4 Deal with Sturgeon’s Law: A complex law to understand, science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon’s maxim is that ‘90% of everything is crap’ – and it applies to crowdsourcing contributions. So you’ll need a system in place, like user voting, to filter out the rubbish.

5 Harness Joy’s Law: The counterpoint to Sturgeon’s Law, ‘No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else,’ attributed to Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy. The key to smart crowdsourcing is to identify and coalesce expert talent pools that lie outside your company.

6 KISS: Keep it Simple, Stupid: Crowdsourcing only works when the task is simple for contributors. Lengthy forms, obtuse IT and arduous tasks are crowd dispersers. 1-click participation should be your goal.

7 Community Rules: Community is the social glue of crowdsourcing, so allow contributors to connect with each other, as well as with the sponsoring brand. Where possible, build on existing communities rather than build new communities, and keep the focus on communities
of practice (based on what people do rather than what they think (designers, creatives, coaches etc))

8 Manage the Process: Crowdsourcing initiatives need to be actively managed. Starbucks has a team of 48 specially trained employees who act as discussion hosts, encouraging participation and feeding back on ideas. Jeff Bruzzo who heads up Starbuck’s crowdsourcing initiative says: ‘These are the people at a dinner party who make sure everyone is having a
good time.’

9 Get Legal Involved: Crowdsourcing often involves the transfer of some kind of an intellectual property,which is not a problem in itself, but you’ll need a cast iron ‘terms and conditions’ clause for contributors

10 Promote the Platform: Whether you’re using a crowdsourcing community or contest, you’ll need to enthusiastically attract contributors. Promote your initiative with online banner advertising, Google ads, and email campaigns, and even traditional media advertising and PR

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