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The Crowdsourcing Phenomenon

The Crowdsourcing Phenomenon

By: Chris Michaels, Sr. Account Manager, Fusion PR

A few weeks ago, I was going through my HARO distribution, and came across a unique opportunity to submit a client for a story in a highly-respected small-business and VC publication. The reporter asked people to go to a website that he created, and submit their ideas there.

So off I go, into the jungles of the Internet, in search of this submission portal. However, once I arrive, I realized what was really going on. This reporter not only created a site for submission, but I could view anyone else’s submission. And, in order for my piece to be picked up, I had to hope that enough people voted for it to be ranked higher.

The more I looked into this system of promoting clients, products and services, I started to recognize what Wired’s Jeff Howe has now coined as “crowdsourcing.” If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s ok. It’s a fairly new concept to begin with, so I’ll try to explain it.

Crowdsourcing takes the work load that was once attributed to an individual or small group, and then employs the masses to do the work for you.

Think of it this way: I have a problem that needs a LOT of information or analysis. So how would I get the information I needed? Sure, I could search on my own, but that would take a while. So why don’t I post a question on a bunch of discussion boards, and let the Internet community respond for me? That’ll point me in the right direction, and I might find a lot more information, individual testimonials and resources that I couldn’t have found by personal research methods.

A recent example was even used for advertising, centered on user generated content (UGC). Heinz needed to create more of a buzz around its flagship ketchup product. Thus it leaned on their creative house to come up with a great campaign to get people interacting with the brand, by holding a contest to create the best viral video. Here, millions of consumers, hobbyists and even agencies came together to create a 30-second spot that was to be uploaded onto YouTube. Then, after all of the submissions were loaded, the general public would select their favorite and the winner would get $57,000. I even submitted an ad for a chance to win the cash.

Instead of pushing the brand to the people, Heinz let people pull the brand to them and provide the world with a funny, corny, sweet or sometimes gross endorsement (you don’t want to know what some people do with ketchup).

The down side of crowdsourcing comes from the community figuring out what’s going on. Then it’s just laziness. Like this reporter I mentioned. Unlike other reporters on HARO or ProfNet who need sources for a story they’re already working on, this guy was just being lazy and making the community find the story ideas for him. While he gets a lot of responses, you could easily discredit the submissions, as you realize that not only can you vote in favor of your submission, you can also vote against all other submissions. So, the more people I crowdsource to vote for my piece (and against the competition), the more likely I’ll get picked up. No, thanks.

Well, that’s the nuts and bolts of crowdsourcing. Have you seen it elsewhere? Leave a comment and let us know (and that’s not me crowdsourcing for more places, really).

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