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How to Use Crowdsourcing for Content Marketing Inspiration

Posted on Sep 10th, 2013
Written by TopRank Marketing
In this article

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    Crowdsourcing Best Practices and ExamplesCreating original and compelling content is paramount to your success as a marketer. Getting your customers involved in this process is great for engagement, product improvement, product development and your overall reputation as a brand. It can also add tremendous value to your content.

    You may be thinking that crowdsourcing is too complex to consider as part of your content curation, but once you understand the different shapes and sizes crowdsourcing can take, even the most risk-averse marketer will understand the benefits of crowdsourcing.

    Just as the definition of content marketing and curation seems to vary, so too does the definition of crowdsourcing. According to, “Crowdsourcing is the process of getting work or funding, usually online, from a crowd of people. The word is a combination of the words ‘crowd’ and ‘outsourcing’. The idea is to take work and outsource it to a crowd of workers.”

    The “collective wisdom of the crowd” has triggered a dramatic shift in the way work is organized, talent is employed, research is conducted and products are made and marketed. Crowdsourcing may involve inviting a network to help solve a particular problem or to contribute insight or expertise toward achieving a particular business or fund raising goal.

    Significantly, Fortune 500 companies are embracing enterprise crowdsourcing in a big way. In 2010, the number of completed micro-tasks grew 496%. Based on the cumulative research, this area continues to grow and shows no sign of stopping.

    As part of our ongoing series on content marketing tactics, this post will share some examples and best practices for organizations leveraging crowdsourcing as part of their content marketing mix.

    Pros & Cons of Crowdsourcing as a Content Marketing Tactic


    • Work processes that can be used across all industries and businesses of any size
    • Asking for customer feedback can provide extremely valuable insight for your business or product and service
    • Rather than relying on one person or agency to work on a project, you can select the best ideas
    • By paying someone a one-time flat rate for their service you’ll enjoy a sost savings
    • Closes the loop on customer direction


    • It can take a lot of time to sift through the outpouring of responses from people wanting to contribute to a project
    • Crowdsourcing supplants traditional forms of labor causing pain and disruption
    • Logistics can get complicated depending on the size of the crowd and/or number of projects
    • There’s a risk guaranteeing ownership of final product – all trademarks, copyrights and intellectual property rights should be obtained by the business owner or company

    What Experts Say About Crowdsourcing

    “The end-to-end process is important, and crowdsourcing is a great way to engage your customer. You have an ongoing engagement around the product, how it’s used, how it’s shared, etc., and if someone contributes to the product through product creation or promotion, then it’s a powerful way of keeping customers involved in your brand.” Gavin Heaton, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

    “It is crowdsourcing concepts like this that have generated great out-of-the-box ideas that spark inquiry, and we hope to bring such ingenuity to humankind’s greatest research platform.” Jim Royston, Interim Executive Director Jim Royston, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), speaking about their latest crowdsourcing contest announcement, “What Would You Send to the ISS?”

    “Many crowd labor customers are companies that formerly hired outsourcers off craigslist but now hire the crowd. According to the success stories, these companies started with crowd labor because of the decreased price, and they stayed because of higher throughput and higher quality.” Sector Road Map: crowd labor platforms in 2012. Gigaom Pro (PDF)

    How Crowdsourcing is Used in B2B Content Curation and Innovation

    Again, with any content marketing strategy, direction will be determined by answering the questions “What does your brand stand for?” and “What does your community care about?” Many more will be revealed during the course of working with the community and project. Those topics can be mapped to key objectives for the brand and how involvement with a social media or online community will help the brand reach those goals. Here are a few specific examples of companies who have successfully used crowdsourcing in their content marketing efforts.



    When this technology bellwether wanted to launch a new family of processors, they chose to crowd source for the right campaign. In order to generate buzz and awareness they partnered with who boasted, at the time, a 30,000 strong community of film makers.

    Poptent posted a creative brief announcing Intel’s intention of buying at least two 30- to 60-second videos. Over 50 videos were submitted. The chosen entries were then posted to Intel’s Inside Scoop blog, YouTube channel, and their Facebook and Twitter properties, encouraging computer users, but especially their core early adopter “techies” to vote. While the blog received 500 votes, the top-tier social networks garnered 40,000 collectively.

    GE ecomagination™

    GE_Ecomagination Challenge_Powering Your Home_newsize

    GE was one of the first global technology brands to embrace blogging, so it’s no surprise they’ve embraced the crowdsourcing concept. Powering Your Home was Phase II of the GE ecomagination Challenge, a $200 million innovation experiment where businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators and students shared their best ideas with an open invitation for innovative ideas about capturing, managing, and using energy in the home.

    Over 70,000 people visited to submit close to 800 ideas and leave over 10,000 comments.

    Local Motors

    Talk about turning the global automotive market on its ear. Arizona-based Local Motors connects a global community of 30,000 designers, engineers, fabricators and enthusiasts to design, manufacture and market inspired vehicle solutions. Their goal is to lead next-generation, crowd-powered automotive design, manufacturing and technology to enable the creation of game-changing vehicles. With underwriters like BMW and Siemens, we think they will.

    Guidelines for Keeping Your Crowd Content

    Crowdsourcing is certainly not for the faint of heart; in the beginning it may seem a lot like herding cats. But two qualities you must have in order to be successful are commitment and courage. Many well-known brands have attempted crowdsourcing only to be unable to sustain their initial effort. Courage is required to ensure your backbone can sustain quick fails. Once you’ve decided to go down this path, here are a few things to keep in mind.

    Connection. Most people eager to participate in a crowd sourced project like to give. Connection provides that give and take. Make sure you have a common place they can gather, whether it’s your corporate intranet or a private Facebook page, so they feel connected in a meaningful way.

    Listen. A major advantage of crowdsourcing is the ability to share ideas, but if the communication isn’t a two-way street, you can be certain your “tribe” will let you know.

    Respond. Be sure to listen before you respond. You can’t claim to be listening to the crowd, if they don’t feel heard. If someone has a great idea, acknowledge the person’s contribution. If there’s an issue, find the best way to solve it. Let the people in your crowd know that they’re not just a number.

    Be transparent. Hiding anything will reap the wrath of the community, whether it’s deleting comments posted by crowd members or not answering questions in a timely manner.

    Empathize. Putting yourself in their shoes allows you to see the situation from the crowd’s perspective, allowing you to communicate more clearly and, when needed, sympathetically.

    Are you ready to take the concept of content marketing to the next level? Is crowdsourcing in your future?

    Read about 29 more content marketing tactics here.