Crowd sourcing is when businesses use online platforms to advertise a job or need that they would like an outside entity to help them with.Tweet This  With the help of digital technology, business owners can use this method to help them find the best available resources for projects that might be out of their current scope of capabilities. Even large companies, like Procter & Gamble and Google, are using crowd sourcing to find experts online to carry out thousands of jobs. Nasdaq reported that Google uses crowd sourcing for content in their advertisements, which help generate 95% of the company’s earnings. Writers and bloggers are paid per click for the content they provide to the search engine and can also benefit from the publicity that comes with writing for a large brand. Learning the ins and outs of crowd sourcing can help a business get the projects in motion it might need to grow, but it’s important to make sure that your asks are clear and that you are adhering to tested best practices.

The Difference Between Crowd Sourcing, Crowdfunding, and Hiring Vendors

You might be asking yourself what exactly the difference is between crowd sourcing and crowdfunding, or even just simply hiring vendors.

Crowdfunding is considered a type of crowd sourcing

Crowdfunding is actually a specific type of crowd sourcing, one that asks a crowd specifically for funding. This allows a business owner to receive money donations and spend those funds as he or she sees fit, whether it be on equipment, work force, or raw materials, without taking on investors. Equity-based crowdfunding is a comparatively new practice that allows the public to invest in a private company in exchange for shares in that company. You can learn more about it in our equity-based crowdfunding guide. Crowdfunding may be one of the purest form of crowd sourcing because the exchange of capital is an action that almost everyone understands.

Get the best idea

Now you might be asking yourself the question, “Why crowd source for a request when one could just pay a single outside vendor?” Crowd sourcing allows for your business to receive multiple ideas for your online request, not just one. Having more options increases the likelihood of you getting exactly what you need. An added draw for businesses to crowd source instead of seeking out a vendor using traditional methods is that compensation for the completed task does not have to be money. Instead, a business can pay a vendor in products, discounts, or publicity, if the company can expose the vendor to the right audience and will ensure that the audience is aware of the vendor and their talents.

Crowdsourcing Guidelines

These crowd sourcing guidelines can help outside collaborators understand what you are looking for and avoid wasted time and confusion later on down the road.

1. Be Crystal Clear

Before you can effectively communicate what you need to an outside source, you’ll need to make sure you know exactly what you want. This may sound obvious, but many projects have gone off the rails from the get go because the person making the request didn’t have a clear image of the project before the other party got started. This leads to wasted time and effort and can sour what would have otherwise been a very productive and mutually beneficial relationship. Many creatives will request a “creative brief” or a summary of what the project should entail, with specifics around audience, format, and other details included. Even if your project isn’t necessarily creative, you can use a creative brief template as a starting place to help you think through and articulate your project. Once you know exactly what you want, decide how you want the job handled. For example, if you are crowd sourcing a new advertisement with content and graphics, would it make the most sense to split the job into two tasks? You might be able to find an expert who can do both, but you might also be able to find a content expert who can create great messaging and a design expert who can lay it out dynamically.

2. Find the Right Platform

Like crowdfunding has Indiegogo and Kickstarer, crowd sourcing has a variety of different platforms that can help you get your project started. If you’re looking for artistic talent, including graphic design, music, and logos, then 99designs or DesignCrowd Review might be the way to go. The key to discovering the correct platform for your project is all about identifying the work your project will require. Here are a couple sites for different types of work to start with:

Design – 99designs

Music – Audiodraft

Content – textbroker

Other – reviews of crowd sourcing sites

3. Prepare Your Pitch

When you make your request on the platform of your choice, the 2 things you need to concentrate on are incentivizing and advertising. Incentives can include payment, goods, services, and publicity. You want to be fair to the experts you’re trying to attract and remember that if the first few people or groups you work with are happy, it might be easier for you to attract other collaborators in the future. Once you make your pitch, advertise and share it on social media and on other sites.

4. Choose Your Expert

If you have a clearly articulated project and a good pitch, you’re probably going to have choices when it comes to who will be executing your ask. You might even get other ideas pitched back to you by enterprising experts who want to take your idea and run with it. Some of these ideas might be attractive, but make sure they align with the goal for your project before you abandon your original idea for something that sounds like a better idea. If you don’t know enough about the tasks associated with the project to assess whether or not an idea aligns with your goals, try reaching out to a trusted colleague or an expert that doesn’t have a dog in the fight for that particular project. A trusted colleague or friendly expert might also be able to help you pick the right person or group to execute on your project.

Is Crowd Sourcing Right for You?

Crowd sourcing can be a great way to economically find new talent and mutually beneficial relationships with other companies. However, because you have to create a pitch and market the pitch itself in order to attract the right person or group for your project, you might want to take into consideration whether or not you have the time that crowd sourcing will require to get a project off the ground. If you don’t, you may want to use a more conventional approach.

Photo Credit: @Boris79, Twenty20