What Is Crowdsourcing? – How it Works & How to Do It

When looking to solve problems, history shows that the answers you seek just might be in the crowd. 

In 1714, the British government looked to accurately measure longitude at sea. Officials decided to crowdsource the solution by offering a hefty reward for the best answer from the public.  

The prize eventually went to watchmaker John Harrison. He built a marine timekeeper that is now known as “one of the great milestones in clock-making history.” This story is a prime example of crowdsourcing – relying on a large body of people to seek knowledge and answers.

So, What Is Crowdsourcing?

In the modern business world, crowdsourcing remains a cost-effective way to get feedback on project ideas, drive engagement with fans and customers, and find solutions to common issues. 

Businesses and companies often leverage the power of social media to crowdsource. In 2019, Jarrett Wieselman of Netflix took to Twitter to crowdsource what customers meant when they complained the streaming giant “didn’t promote” when a Netflix show got canceled. 

The ensuing comments provided top-tier information for Netflix executives and helped the company’s marketing team devise various new promotional ideas. 

Even President Barack Obama’s team used Twitter as a crowdsourcing platform to solicit questions he would answer during a town hall event in July 2011. 

It’s important to note the differences between crowdsourcing and outsourcing. Crowdsourcing relies on a non-specific people group (the crowd) to find answers or feedback. Outsourcing is where a question or problem is handed off to a specific person or group to solve. 

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Crowdsourcing? 

When it comes to the pros and cons of crowdsourcing, many argue that the advantages far outnumber the downsides. Companies can get feedback on products, answers to questions, and collect inspiration for new ideas at a much lower cost (or even free) than hiring a dedicated professional or a research firm. 

Additionally, savvy brands who leverage social media and other public platforms to crowdsource can often get a vast number of answers and comments. More data points and feedback help refine products and flesh out ideas. 

Companies like RedCrow have even given a leg up to platforms in the healthcare innovation field looking to crowdsource. RedCrow allows entities to submit their company for crowdsourced, targeted feedback from industry experts, possible investors, and customers. 

However, any business owner knows they pay experts for their experience. Crowdsourcing feedback and input might be less credible than earning comments and advice from experts who have spent years in a particular field. It’s also hard for crowd members to organize and work together collaboratively. Some might feel like they are ‘competing’ with each other. This could impact solicited feedback. 

That’s why Redcrow’s crowdsourced feedback comes from a crowd that includes industry experts. Working with specialists and industry professionals to offer their feedback, Redcrow connects the wisdom of the crowd with highly-qualified companies that resonate with a broad audience.

What Are The Best Practices In Crowdsourcing? 

One essential best practice is to be willing to ‘break’ traditional formulas and creatively harness the crowd’s power. People will often respond if they trust a business owner is looking to see exactly what they want and use. 

Street Excecs co-founder and artist Charlie Jabaley relied on this best practice to properly launch merchandising campaigns. Before buying shirt inventory, he decided to reverse-engineer the traditional merchandising process and posted design ideas on Instagram. 

Based on follower reactions, he quickly figured out the most popular designs. This knowledge was invaluable – now he could order merchandise that he knew would have buyers. 

His targeted crowdsourcing efforts eventually led to his first hit – a ‘Dabbing Santa’ sweater that generated $2.1 million in sales over a month. 

Other best practices include being specific with questions, requests, and petitions for advice and feedback. Clear goals make it easier for the crowd to give you responses that hit the mark. 

Companies looking to use crowdsourcing to receive feedback should also be succinct and not overload consumers with questions and follow up with regular engagement to help keep the crowd focused and intentional. 

The Bottom Line With Crowdsourcing 

Crowdsourcing remains one of the most effective ways for a company to solicit customer feedback and ensure a product, idea, or concept is on the right track. 

In the age of social media, many users are more than willing to help a business that is authentic with its intentions about optimizing the customer experience. 

Join the community

At RedCrow, we create an intentional ecosystem that reinvents and democratizes the way early-stage companies receive crowdsourced feedback and funding. Today’s ideas are tomorrow’s breakthrough discoveries. 

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