Is Crowdsourcing Right for Your Organization?

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CrowdsourcingCrowdsourcing is one of the newest market research tools. Many large organizations such as Starbucks, Nokia, Dell, IBM, 3M, and Netflix are embracing it to learn more about what their clients and prospects want and need. But what is it and what are the risks and rewards of using it? This blog will explain what crowdsourcing is,  its pitfalls, and lastly, best practices to strive for when implementing it.

What is Crowdsourcing?

According to Wikipedia (which, by the way, is a crowdsourcing method), it is:

“Crowdsourcing is a type of participative online activity in which a company or organization proposes to a group of individuals of varying knowledge, heterogeneity, and number, via an open call, to voluntarily undertake a task.”

Pitfalls to Recognize with Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing didn’t solve the problem or give us the answers. Yes, this is always a possibility, but you need to ask the following questions, if this happens:

  1. Did we define the problem fully?
  2. Did we have enough participants to give us sufficient input?
  3. Did we give the online forum enough time?

Having the crowd confused about the question, issue, or proposed product or service will “deep six” your campaign and provide you with ineffective data. Work on clarity and purpose.

In addition, some organizations think their problems can only be solved internally. They may implement crowdsourcing but not be convinced of its value. They set it up to fail, by not asking the right questions from a diverse audience and/or giving it enough time.

We had very few participants or homogeneous responses.  Having a small outside sample or individuals from the same company (if the organization is small), can cause the sample base to be skewed and doesn’t fully leverage the wisdom of the crowds.

If this happens, you need to ask yourself “Why?” Often times, individuals will not participate in an online forum if they think the organization is not hearing them. The corporation never responded to their input — one way or another. Being ignored, when you have taken the time to evaluate and write up options to a problem or product innovation, is frustrating.

If the crowd is the company only, they may have an agenda in their responses. Or respond the way they think their boss wishes them to respond. Either way, internal sources typically do not provide a group that is large enough or contain enough diversity to be effectively evaluated.

Crowdsourcing Best Practices

There are many best practices to consider when crowdsourcing, but you can assure a successful campaign if you follow only these four guidelines:

    1. Your participants must be diverse.  Include employees from all business units within the organization, and tapping into outside stakeholders (customers/potential customers) is critical.


    1. Participants must be encouraged to share their unique ideas.  Avoid “group think” by providing incentive for unique  perspective and contributions.


    1. Determine the best method for collecting, organizing, and aggregating the information you receive.  Prediction markets, online forums, and wikis are useful tools, but often serve a different purpose.  Remember, the best ideas come from collective wisdom and are often not represented in any individual contribution.


  1. Throughout the process, constantly communicate with participants to provide new considerations, feedback on ideas, and information on how their ideas are being used.

Infosurv is a online marketing research organization based in Atlanta, Georgia that specializes in crowdsourcing techniques. We help our clients with their strategy, implementation, and reporting process.

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Christian Wright

Christian Wright is the VP of Client Services at Infosurv. With a master’s in marketing research, he’s equipped to design actionable research that yields impactful insights and drives change.
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