What is Crowdsourcing?

By Chris Lott | Marketing | 12454 Views | 8 Comments    

Years before it was penned crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe in Wired Magazine I was involved with this concept and watched it work quite well. A friend’s small car dealership was looking for a new jingle for their radio ads. Instead of hiring a marketing company (or using an internal employee) they put the word out that anyone in Austin could submit a jingle and the winner would receive $1000 bucks! The response was incredible and the jingle is still being used 20+ years later. A key ingredient to this success was the location as Austin TX was/is packed full of singer songwriters. We’ll talk more about that later.


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Crowdsourcing worked out extremely well for this dealership. As a matter of fact it became a real win-win for them and the artist. Not only did they get their jingle economically… they became a media phenomenon because of all the activity around the offer. Television stations, radio talk shows, and newspaper articles blossomed. The day of the award they were all there. You just can’t afford this kind of attention normally and here it was being offered free (gratis) to both parties. Powerful!

“…the world is becoming too fast, too complex and too networked for any company to have all the answers inside.” – Yochai Benkler. Yale University from The Wealth of Networks

So what is crowdsourcing?
Simply… “crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a “crowd”), through an open call.” – Wikipedia

What are the key ingredients to successful crowdsourcing?

    Focus – You and your company need to be laser focused on what your looking for. If not then crowdsourcing will take you all over the map with your project, most likely, ending in a disaster.

    Right Crowds – This is huge and needs some real thought. In my example earlier Austin was a great “right crowds” location for a specific sounding jingle. They wanted something catchy and country sounding.

    Clear Reward – To get real talent there needs to be a budgeted reward. This doesn’t always need to be cash however. Notoriety can be a great motivator as well. Take some time and think about what your “right crowds” would want. Critical!

    Implement – Now that you have an idea, product, etc., how do you implement it into the company? If you spent some time on the “focus” then this is pretty straight forward. If not… implementation will be extremely tough.

Small Business Crowdsourcing Ideas?
How about using it for designing your logo? Every time I have mentored or started my own business there was always loads of time spent on logo design. Here’s a great site to do just that: 99designs

What if you need funds for your creative business? Take a look here: Kickstarter

Maybe you’re looking for expert advice for your business but only have funds for an hour? Then look here: Gerson Lehrman Group

Beta testing anything in your company can be a great crowdsourcing event. The information gleamed from these testers, most times for free, can become invaluable. These beta tests can be product, website, media, and generally anything you want a crowd response and improvement ideas.

Social Media and Crowdsourcing
LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are great data collectors if used properly. They all offer powerful venues to make offerings and/or collect data easily and inexpensively. Do not underestimate the power of social media for crowdsourcing success.

Crowdsourcing 2.0
Here are examples of some of the newer crowdsourcing 2.0 offerings today. While these are larger offerings it is interesting to see the ideas offered.

DesignCrowd: “DesignCrowd gives you access to a ‘virtual team’ of 31,074 designers from around the world (via a process called crowdsourcing) – helping you to tap into the very best international design talent available, at a low cost. Post a project on DesignCrowd and watch designs pour in from around the world (the average project receives 50+ designs). “

CrowdMed: “harnesses the wisdom of crowds to collaboratively solve even the world’s most difficult medical cases quickly and accurately online.”

Gigwalk: “We turn iPhones into a second paycheck and instantly connect businesses to the talented Gigwalk community workforce to do Gigs using the Gigwalk iPhone App.”

“This is really the biggest paradigm shift in innovation since the Industrial Revolution” – MIT professor Eric von Hippel, specialist in innovation management.

Hopefully you can now see crowdsourcing as a potentially powerful tool for any business small or large. While today it might not be for everyone the offerings are growing daily. Just Google “Crowdsourcing” and you’ll see what I mean.

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Chris Lott has this crazy creative side that motivates him to design websites and write articles. He's a disruptive technologist and is passionate about sales, family, and anything related to technology. See what others are saying about his work!.


8 thoughts on “What is Crowdsourcing?

  1. Personally, I am quite on the fence regarding the use of a crowdsourcing site for a logo design. It is still a touchy issue for most designers who said that crowdsourcing is a no-no for obtaining a logo design. I have tried crowdsourcing before and I know the risks involved but it comes within the territory. But there are other no-frills logo design websites online such as,,, etc. which are actually great in getting a professional logo design at a fraction of the price and minus the risks of crowdsourcing (plagiarism is one of them). Seeing that there are no consultation services, the price is significantly lower than that of conventional design firms. For instance, I have tried and the experience was indeed a positive one. I managed to get my business logo design at an affordable price and the turnaround time was great as well. Highly recommended. Although crowdsourcing for logo designs could be a bane for some, many find it to be a viable alternative to get a fast logo on the cheap. It all depends on the individual actually.

  2. I absolutely am a fan of crowdsourcing.
    Nike gleaned their logo from crowdsourcing – a contest open to the general public. I have a sister starting up a brand new company which will benefit from crowdsourcing. What a concept – being able to help expose new talent and acquiring a great jingle, logo, commercial or sign.
    While I am faithful to my long-time customers and enjoy the peace of mind received from using a proven source, there are many opportunities to help the underdog win also.

  3. You don’t have to be big to do it, but there is some either luck or skill involved. My favorite coffeehouse almost went under last month – but their customers raised 50k in donations in three weeks to keep them going, and are now much more engaged in the direction of the shop. The key, in this case, was a recognition that the coffeehouse was more than a business – it is a community center. i mentioned that Intuit’s Love a Local Business contest has a 25k prize to the top local business – measured by online votes – each month. Right now – through a mildly aggressive tweet/FB campaign – it’s closing in fast on number one.

    The essence here isn’t the tweets – it’s the retweets, which drastically expanded the reach of the owners. That’s where crowdsourcing comes into play in this kind of scenario – the “Crowd” carries your message for you, and the crowd is responsible for the financial results.

    The key is engagement with your customers – are they a community? – as well as a recognition of their skills. If they are, then sites like or can actually crowdsource funding, or partial funding, for the right small business.

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