Three’s Company, Four (Thousand) is a Crowd

You know the old saying, “Two heads are better than one?”  Now we’re dealing with “Millions of heads are better than one.”  Crowdsourcing is a compound of the words “crowd” and “outsourcing” and is defined by Wikipedia as the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor and outsourcing them to a group of people or community, through an open call to a large group.  Jeff Howe coined the term in an 2006 article in wired magazine.

Crowdsourcing has involved the public in all kinds of decisions.  Companies are starting to note the advantages of letting the public do creative work for you.  It’s cheap to do, it’s basically free market research and it can promote your product to a ready made audience.  Crowdsourcing is done in many different industries through all channels of social media.  Some run contests on YouTube.  Some poll their blog readers or Twitter followers.  It’s all about keeping your community engaged and it can be among the smartest moves you make when building an online presence.

  • A high profile example of crowdsourcing is from Audi, who is currently running a contest to crowdsource the design of their new electric cars.  The contest is geared towards students and scientists who work either alone or in a team and calls for not only the design but the production of the vehicle.
  • In 2006, Netflix asked the public to design better software for recommending movies to customers…for a million dollar prize.  Three years later, a team of mathematicians developed software that was 10% more accurate than the existing NetFlix software.
  • Fashion Stake, a site launching in September, will allow designers to get fan feedback and receive funding for their clothing lines.  Designers can post pictures of their samples on the site and users can then support the lines they like by purchasing a $50 stake in the design.  If a design earns enough stakes to fund production, the line is sold exclusively on Fashion Stake’s website.  But the consumers win too: proceeds will be funneled back to the stakeholders in the form of credits to be used on merchandise sold on the site.  It’s a fashion ecosystem whose model would be interesting to see in other forms of e-commerce.

Crowdsourcing certainly has staying power in the B2C market, but what about the B2B space?  Sam Decker, CMO at Bazaarvoice says that it will grow there as well.  “It is becoming more and more popular, because it creates what I call customer oxygen. It’s about bringing the voice of the customer, in an operational way, into your company. Every company has to pay attention to what the customer is saying, and this is a part of the future in doing that.”

-Jordyn Haas

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