The term crowdsourcing was first introduced by Jeff Howe in the year 2006 (The Rise of Crowdsourcing), according to him – Crowdsourcing is outsourcing a job to an undefined, generally large number of people which was traditionally performed by a dedicated employee. There is a general misconception that crowdsourcing can only be done using Social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. In fact, that is one of the last options a company should consider, keeping the security and branding at stake. Various types of community crowdsourcing platforms are available depending upon the requirements such as design, ideas, feedbacks/suggestions, human intelligence etc.
Why do companies go for crowdsourcing?
Companies choose to go for crowdsourcing under the following three circumstances:
- An organization has a challenging task to be performed. (applications development, process improvement, technology update, etc.)
- Voluntary participation by an online community. (Forums and social media platforms)
- Mutual benefits for both parties. (Information, awards, Announcements, customer service-customer engagement)
Also based on the above-mentioned points, companies choose a different type of crowdsourcing platform depending upon their needs. Generally, it is classified into three major categories, which are:
- Innovation – Product or Service innovation, experience, process, or business model improvements.
- Marketing & Communication – Promotions, Branding, Customer Engagement & Service
- Design – Retail and Point of Sale
How community crowdsourcing can be best used?
Depending upon the type of Industry, Product/Service type, Business Process etc, companies have their options to choose the desired crowdsourcing platform.
- Social Media Platform: It is the most common form of crowdsourcing service used by companies in order to provide a better customer experience to their customers. Social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn allow a company to get in touch with a large group of people based on their demographic (age, gender, education, religion, etc) and geographic background. Companies use these platforms to get feedback about a product or service, polls, surveys, campaigns, and these are mostly used to improve their customer experience and branding strategies.
- Example: A Facebook page is created by a company with a copyright symbol and whenever a new product or service is launched, customers are asked to rate and provide feedback to ensure the best is delivered to them. It allows a company to create a more personalized product and improves customer engagement.
- Benefits: A large group of people can be reached with minimum effort and cost involved, better customer service can be provided based on the feedback provided.
- Drawbacks: Competitors can create fake accounts and spoil the image of the brand, by providing negative comments and feedback.
- Customized platforms: There are many technology companies that build crowdsourcing platforms depending upon the client’s requirements. For example, Amazon Mechanical Turk or Mturk acts as a bridge in connecting companies and individuals for certain human-intelligence tasks, that cannot be performed by a computer or machine. This kind of platform comes in API plugins where companies can purchase it and customize it according to their requirement. Again, these requirements fall under the following sub-categories:
- Creative groups: A competition is conducted among a creative community which allows companies to source any creative design for their websites, applications, products, etc.
- Example: www.designcrowd.com, this company have more than half a million designers which allows companies to create graphic designs for their logo, website, business cards. etc.
- Benefits: Cost-effective – As companies have to pay only for the designs and not for the designer, whereas if the company has to recruit a designer, an overhead cost is added automatically.
- Drawbacks: Confidentiality and Communication gap is a major drawback with these kinds of personalized platforms.
- Idea Generation: Platforms build to brainstorm ideas from a group of people in order to improve a company’s product or service. People are asked to participate in a contest and whoever provides the best idea or suggestion is rewarded with gifts and prizes.
- Example: Ideas Lego, this is one of the popular crowdsourcing platforms to generate product ideas.
- Benefits: Cost-effective and several ideas are provided from a large group of people, which widens the scope for the company to innovate the product or service.
- Drawbacks: Confidentiality, as competitors can steal your ideas, lack of involvement from the participants.
- Content Markets: Many companies have both in-house content writers/developers and freelancing content writers. Again, this platform enables a large group of people to provide content based on the company’s requirements. There are few websites, where companies or individuals post their requirements, for which the content writers can put their prize quotes (bidding), showcasing their previous works. Even ratings are provided for the participants, hence, companies can choose people based on the rating, prize, and experience. Content is not restricted to just writeups, there are few sites that showcase content such as photos, handmade items, illustrations, etc.
- Example: https://www.redbubble.com
- Benefits: Like any other crowdsourcing platform, these also have the following benefits: reduce cost, eliminate overhead, minimal management, more options, optimize creativity.
- Drawbacks: Missing the best talent – Participants might not be always keen and responsible to provide their best, as they are not part of an organization. Stolen or plagiarized Content.
- Human Intelligence Tasks: This is a very popular type of crowdsourcing platform used by technology-oriented companies. There are many geeks and tech-savvy people who wish to contribute their extra time to earn, innovate, develop, train or teach. Human intelligence task crowdsourcing platforms are preferred by companies when they want to hire a temporary workforce to complete a specific task which a computer or machine cannot perform. Outsourcing to an intelligent crowd to complete a specific project/task.
- Example: Mturk (We have seen about mturk already)
- Benefits: Less overhead costs, on-demand resource availability, gain best talents for employment, Timeliness.
- Drawbacks: Conflict is a major disadvantage with this type of crowdsourcing, generally these technically skilled people don’t like being told how to work, but when a company wants to develop the right product, it has to provide the necessary information, due to communication gap there can be chances of conflict, hence companies should actively integrate with people who are involved.
- Retail and Point of Sale: Many companies have started using social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, etc., to sell their products and services. These social media platforms allow companies to customize pages as per their needs to showcase products and services. Once the customer chooses to buy a product, he/she is navigated to their company page for payment options. This is a popular mode of platforms used by startups and small-sized companies as social media platforms already possess a large group of people.
- Example: Beardoofficial
- Benefits: Better target marketing, a large pool of customers in one place, better customer engagement.
- Drawbacks: As much as the social media platforms provide benefits, it also comes up with similar weighted drawbacks, negative feedback will spoil the image of the company as it is an open platform. Fake feedbacks by competitors can adversely affect the company’s brand.
Recommendations for better use of Community Crowdsourcing platforms:
Some of the best practices that can be used by companies to create an optimized crowdsourcing platform are as follows:
- Better Management: Companies should ensure that they manage the participants correctly, just assigning tasks alone won’t help in getting the best results. The concerned person should assign, provide the necessary information, monitor, integrate, value the feedback, so an end-to-end approach will improve the efficiency.
- Accept Feedback: When companies go for social media crowdsourcing, they should be prepared for both positive and negative feedbacks and ensure that they just don’t listen to feedback but also act on it. Another aspect of it is to contact qualified feedback givers and use them as an asset to improve the company’s products and services. (Awards and Rewards system can also be introduced)
- No compromise on quality, security, and confidentiality: When companies go for crowdsourcing, these are the most important things which are at stake, hence companies should ensure that there is no compromise on these parameters. A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) form can help save the security and confidentially issue and for better quality, the product should undergo proper testing to avoid any bugs before putting under usability.
- Choosing Social Media platforms wisely: Sometimes the feedback provided by people on social media can be indecisive since some people might provide just random feedback without paying enough attention – they might already like your brand which ends up providing positive feedback. Also, competitors can set fake accounts to spread negative publicity.