Crowdsourcing: a Low-Cost Approach to Acquiring Information from your Clients and Stakeholders

At the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing  (CEPSM) we are always looking for innovations in the field of marketing .One of the items that is very important to myself and my colleagues at CEPSM these days is understanding where we believe there is growing value for our clients, particularly with the advent of social media and seeing growing numbers transition from learning to doing.

My colleagues and I  have spent the last number of months researching what areas are going to have the highest impact.  A clear winner and a social media area that we feel confident in steering our partners and clients to consider is crowdsourcing.  Crowdsourcing is a broad social media term coined to capture the actions of bringing together a group or set of stakeholders to help to solve challenging issues.

Crowdsourcing (which is sometimes also referred to as Innovation Management) in its simplest form gets the “crowd” to put forward ideas, make improvements to and comments about those ideas, and the participants rate the ideas put forward.  A great way to understand more about crowdsourcing and why it should matter to you would be through books and blogs, of course.  Here is a good blog here (that provides insight into a good book that explains crowdsourcing).

The sponsors of a crowdsource engagement, assuming that the process is sound, are left with a wealth of ideas, many of which have been improved through the engagement, how the ideas compare in rating from the participants, and, ultimately, some ideas that will move to implementation.

In his article, “Power of Crowdsourcing”, Matt H. Evans contends that “Crowdsourcing taps into the global world of ideas, helping companies work through a rapid design process.” This is usually available at relatively no cost, as people are always willing to share their ideas on a global scale.

Perceived benefits of crowdsourcing include the following:  source:

  • Problems can be explored at comparatively little cost, and often very quickly.
  • Payment is by results or even omitted
  • The organization can tap a wider range of talent than might be present in its own organization.[
  • By listening to the crowd, organizations gain first-hand insight on their customers’ desires.
  • The community may feel a brand-building kinship with the crowdsourcing organization, which is the result of an earned sense of ownership through contribution and collaboration.

My colleague Mike Kujawski is fresh back from the big Gov 2.0 Expo in Washington.  One of the clear takeaways from the many keynotes and sessions that took place was the unofficial crowdsourcing theme throughout the Expo.  Clearly, the resonation of crowdsourcing in so many of the discussions, breakouts, and, most importantly, in the activities of the public sector is the strongest validation that we have seen yet of its evolution.

The Canadian federal government has not been immune to the evolution in crowdsourcing, something that CEPSM has been very interested in.  There are a number of recent examples of successful crowdsourcing engagements from the feds.  As far as we are aware, the only crowdsourcing company devoted to and supporting the public sector, is PubliVate. We have found them to be not only collaborative and innovative but also very much aligned to the principals and focus that we have at CEPSM. Moreover, we have been impressed by their solutions and their results with their public sector clients.  A quick snapshot of that is below from a “quantitative” perspective with their 5 most recent engagements and a look at the number of ideas (blue dots) and comments/improvements to ideas (orange dots) across from each.  In the “worst” case (Engagement D, which also had the fewest participants) their end to end solution produced about 100 ideas and 250 comments and improvements to those ideas to Engagement C where they had almost 1,200 ideas and about 2,800 comments and improvements (the blue dot is hiding behind the orange one).

When you couple this with another element that we appreciated which was the focus on one’s business objective, it is pretty impressive stuff. Lastly, I should mention that their methodology is great; all of the data shown above is was collected with participants in a 3-4 week period where there was both some urgency but also some idea “incubation”. As we know  speed is of the essence from time to time and crowdsourcing is a solution to marketing challenges which can be turned around quickly.

As we all continue to learn and start to become “practitioners” of social media, it is important to understand the outcomes that you can expect and make sure that those are aligned to the outcomes that you desire.

From what we have seen, crowdsourcing is a strong wave that is starting to grow within our community and we want to be there to be as an active participant as well as ensuring that we are providing the solutions to you that you need.  That is one of the reasons why we have established an association with PubliVate and are pleased that they will not only be at MARCOM but – we hope – will be with CEPSM for the long haul as crowdsourcing picks up and ends up being a primary tool for many of our clients.

Regardless, of our associations (although we think we have picked a very good one), I would urge you to find out more about something that is highly flexible, outcome-based, and provides strong returns in many ways to your business objectives utilizing the principles of social media.

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