4 Ways To Put The Crowd To Work For You

by Eli Perez

The business case for crowdsourcing is simple: more heads are smarter than one.

“The crowdsourcing trend comes from the increasing recognition that no matter how smart a manager is, harnessing 10,000 brains is always going to yield better results,” says James Gardner, Chief Strategy Officer at Spigit.

Here are four products your business can use to harness crowds to achieve more than any one person could.

1. Empower Brand Advocates for Sales

Needle is a live chat sales platform. It integrates with a company’s support systems to transform their fan base into sales generators. These crowdsourced online sales agents–dubbed “Needlers”–respond to live chats on the company’s website.

Stephanie Walsh, Needle’s Community Vice President, says using customers as sales reps provides a richer experience than the scripted, impersonal responses customers typically get from a traditional call center. With Needle, the brand advocate instead gives personalized responses based on their first-hand experience with the company’s products.

Since headphone manufacturer Skullcandy implemented the Needle platform in 2010, the company’s online conversion rates have hovered between 20-30 percent. Nick, one of Skullcandy’s “Needlers,” alone generated more than $32,780 in sales for the company.

Needle utilizes social network channels to recruit and certify potential Needlers. Noelle Bates, Vice President of Communications, says that when Needle signs a new client, Needle then invites their fans to go through a certification process to identify brand expertise as well the capacity to offer valuable insight in a live chat setting. Those who pass certification then begin the training to become Needlers.

For their efforts, Needlers receive a base pay as well as points which can be redeemed at their favorite online stores. This keeps Needlers engaged and motivated.

2. Mobilizing Consumers for Field Research

Field Agent is an iPhone application that empowers consumers to perform field research “jobs” for brands in exchange for small sums–typically between $1 and $8. These jobs range from snapping images of competitor product placements to price checking. Companies use the Field Agent platform to set parameters for each job, which are then pushed to customer agents based on their location.

For example, a cosmetics company that wants to check on in-store promotional displays could send agents to a nearby department store. Once they arrive, the agent might be asked to respond to a series of questions about the display, such as: Is it in the front or the back of the store? Did the person at the counter ask you about the display? What did they say? The agent would then take a picture to confirm their location and hit “submit job,” which relays the information back to the company.

Field Agent offers a low-cost alternative to paying a staffer or consultant to complete the work, and client companies receive fast, credible field research.

3. Use the Crowd to Narrow Down Great Ideas

SpigitEngage is enterprise-level idea management software that helps companies devise and execute new ideas using a crowd. Members can post ideas in their Spigit community, which might include customers, business partners or employees.

First, broad ideas are posted with supporting materials such as relevant videos, photos and backing documentation. Community members then engage with the idea, offering feedback for improvements as well as votes for approval or disapproval. As ideas mature, they are funneled through idea graduation stages. These parameters help narrow proposals to specific, actionable plans.

Along the way, engagement with respondents is driven by gamification elements embedded within the platform. “It’s all about making people enjoy participating,” Gardner says.

Once an idea has matured through the graduation stages, it enters the idea market–an intellectual trading floor of sorts. Leaderboard mechanics reflect the ideas from users who are gaining more traction within the community. Using a virtual currency, respondents can “buy” the ideas they like and “sell” the ones they don’t, as well as trade them.

4. Customers as Marketing Content Creators

Compendium is cloud-based software that allows companies to capture and distribute customer-generated content. Compendium facilitates a more personal approach to content marketing.

As Compendium President and CEO Frank Dale explains, “People trust their friends, neighbors–people who seem like them–much more than they do a company. If you can get someone to advocate freely and openly on behalf of your company, your odds of winning go up dramatically.”

Gymboree Play and Music uses Compendium’s StoryCapture feature to collect customer feedback about their early childhood development programs. The company’s marketing team is able to reach out to parents via email surveys and invite them to share their stories. StoryCapture walks customers through the process of sharing their experiences by presenting questions about Gymboree classes they’ve attended.

“Once the participant hits ‘submit,’ it’ll go to the moderation layer on our platform. And that’s where someone from the Gymboree marketing team will quickly be able to triage the stories, look at them, approve, edit, or decline the stories,” Dale says.

Once approved by the marketer, content is posted to a Compendium-hosted blog that appears on the company’s site. The content is then syndicated to social media networks, such as company Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.

These four technologies present companies with unique ways to engage with their customers, capture their knowledge and utilize the crowd for significant gains. Do you have other favorite products for crowdsourcing tasks to customers? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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