Monday, March 1, 2010

Crowdsourcing: Getting others to do your work for you

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an alien researcher with SETI or an investigative reporter for The Guardian in the UK? Well, now is your chance. Both are turning to the public for help with a project - one that is better performed by thousands of amateurs rather than a handful of experts. This is part of a growing trend by companies of reaching out to the masses for help with their projects and for advice about their products and services. It is also something that marketers should start thinking about for their own business.

What is Crowdsourcing?
Crowdsourcing means outsourcing tasks that are traditionally performed by employees to a group of people or community through an “open call.” It is using the collective intelligence of many to either find the best solution to a problem or help perform tasks that would be overwhelming for a handful of people. A perfect example of crowdsourcing comes from the source of this definition, Wikipedia. Thousands of volunteers collaborated to produce over 14 million articles – and turned the encyclopedia market on its head in the process.

How can I benefit from it?
Generally speaking, there are three areas where crowdsourcing can benefit you: developing ideas for new or existing products, engaging consumers with an activity related to the brand, and generating creative ideas for advertising.

Generating creative ideas for advertising
If you’ve had enough of working with ad agencies, then this option might be for you. In this type of crowdsourcing, you bypass your ad agency and have consumers create your ads. This usually takes the form of an open competition where the winner(s) gets a cash award for either generating the concept of the ad or actually developing the completed ad. Doritos has been successfully running a Super Bowl Ad competition for years. Their crowdsourced ads consistently rank in the top five of Super Bowl ad polls and have earned the creators up to $1 million in bonus money for their stellar in-market performance. If you are apprehensive about the time and effort required to create a platform to run a crowdsourced project, don’t worry. There are companies who specialize in setting up these types of campaigns that can get you running in no time. Companies such as crowdSPRING and Idea Bounty will run the campaign right from their website and they generally receive more than 100 entries per campaign.

Why not give it a try?
The next time you have a project that you think could benefit from some fresh ideas, consider crowdsourcing. The collective intelligence of the masses may just bring you a great product idea or creative concept that you never would have discovered on your own.

Edited down from Ogilvy Digital Labs

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