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The More the Merrier: Using Crowdsourcing for Your Content Marketing Efforts

Mark Gadala-Maria

While the concept of relevance has always driven successful marketing efforts, it is a core requirement for effective marketing in today’s cluttered and hypercompetitive marketplace. In fact, the entire premise of all search engines is determining the relevance of any one website to a submitted search query, and matching it with the searcher.

Crowdsourcing has served as a premier method for gathering relevant content for centuries, although the actual term for this process wasn’t coined until 2006 by Jeff Howe in a Wired magazine article. The British used an early crowdsourcing effort when established a prize in the 1700s to seek suggestions for measuring a ship’s longitude. Another British effort produced the original Oxford English Dictionary, and crowdsourcing has been to improve the OED for over a century.

Related Article: How to Grow Your Business Without Google Search

Combining a Proven Concept with New Technologies

In spite of the past use of crowdsourcing, it has only taken off as a significant and effective tool with the advent of the Internet and global communications. The Oxford English Dictionary editors could only rely on letters and cards mailed from contributors throughout the British Empire. In the mid-20th century, Pillsbury could only use the postal service to collect recipes for its calendar and cookbooks. However, the basic premise these approaches validated is that content from interested individuals will produce an involved and engage a community of users.

For modern business owners and managers, there has never been as inexpensive and powerful a tool for developing content for their users as that found in crowdsourcing. Understanding and utilizing this tool will position a business as an authority figure centered among a group of engaged customers. With such insights, various strategies for using crowdsourcing will produce relevant and proprietary content.

There are numerous examples of companies creating content today through crowdsourcing techniques. Many large companies such as Coca-Cola and General Mills have pioneered the use of modern crowdsourcing approaches. However, many businesses, regardless of size, can now take advantage of the same concepts and methods. Several examples of successful strategies include:

Strategy #1 - Using Social Media to Crowdsource Your Content

With active participation from followers, a company can solicit and collect a wide range of information and contributions on topics relevant to its market space. This material allows the creation of proprietary intellectual property and an ongoing process of engagement and entertainment. For example, TourBeat is establishing itself as an authority on the finances of touring within the music industry.

TourBeat Screen Shot

Image via TourBeat

TourBeat has launched an effort to produce a collection of information and insights related to the music industry. The company seeks to produce an eBook and web archive of material that details the knowledge and experience of people involved in the industry.

"TourBus Economics" is compiled from submissions solicited on its website and through other media. Internal editors will evaluate and organize the material into usable content. While the immediate objective is to produce a finished product, the project will actually continue as an ever-expanding archive of information from and experiences of industry participants.

Originally launched in December of 2014, TourBeat aims to bring customers the latest news when it comes to tours and concerts by creating an "IMDB" type site dedicated to concerts. They also provide the service of searching for concert tickets from different providers from around the web in one place so customers can search to find the best seats at the best price all service fee free.

Application: Consider a special area of experience and participation in your industry that is of interest to all participants. Create a project, contest, or community of contributors who will provide the personal content to create a worthwhile final result in a pre-defined area of focus. Note this allows repurposing of the content in multiple forms and media.

Related Article: Telling Your Brand Story: How to Engage the Masses

Strategy #2 - Allowing Others to Provide Content and Create Value on Your Site

If course, the Internet has produced one of the one of the most used and visible crowdsourcing projects in history with the creation of Wikipedia.

WIkipedia Community Portal

Image via Wikipedia

Thousands of individuals have provided and continue to generate information accessed by millions to create a broad base of relevant information. While virtually anyone can submit information to the site, the real crowdsourcing value comes from a large base of volunteers who are responsible for vetting and moderating the massive amount of information.

Surprisingly, this project is more a large small business than a corporate undertaking, all thanks to the power of crowdsourcing.

Application: Different from the TourBeat example, your industry may have the need for an ongoing point of information and reference that will create a broad following. While it certainly doesn’t need to be as broad as that of Wikipedia, you can create the authority position by creating and managing the site.

Strategy #3 – Using Your Followers as a Source of R&D and Market Research

With active social media participation, it is possible to conduct a great deal of research from actual and potential customers, moving one step closer to realistic and actionable data. Lay’s found great success when it used crowdsourcing to seek ideas for new flavors of its product.

Do Us a Flavor, Lays Campaign

Image via Lay's

The “Do Us a Flavor” campaign, this effort at crowdsourcing is calling on consumers to submit ideas for new potato chip flavors. The company created a Facebook page app and allows interested participants to easily submit their ideas and creations. Further increasing participation, the company then allowed their Facebook fans to vote on the top suggestions, with the winner receiving a prize of $1 million or 1 percent of the new chips first year’s sales, whichever was greater. An added bonus for Lay’s was the heavy media coverage of the process, generating a great deal of unpaid advertising.

Application: Depending on your product or service, it may make a lot of sense to turn to your market space to seek feedback on product modifications, changes and new introductions. Make the effort innovative, fun and creative to gain both increased participation and greater market visibility.

Related Article: The Do's And Don'ts of Stellar Blogger Outreach

Strategy #4 – Use Crowdsourcing to Make Wise Strategic Decisions and Changes

The two-way nature of crowdsourcing is one way to break down corporate silos and combat management’s ivory tower syndrome. When it came to choosing a more relevant company name, Pixily found a winning strategy.

Pixily. What is more relevant to your customers than your company name? When this small document scanning and management company decided it needed a more powerful brand, starting with its name, it turned to both employees and customers for the process. The company eschewed the use of a professional branding company or an internally-driven management project. Instead, it used a process of contacting and asking for input from those who relied on the company, and ended up with the new name, OfficeDrop.

Office Drop Screenshot

Image via neuro-designs

The company used a three-phase process that started with a company-wide brainstorming process. With the roughly 100 names this produced, the second step narrowed the list to 30 possibles. Then, this list was whittled down by online checking and more voting. The final 10 names were then introduced to customers via a detailed email and survey, with a record high open and participation rate. The process not only produced a new name, it generating a new level of interaction between employees and customers.

Application: If your firm is faced with changes or new directions dictated by changes in your market, you can smooth the eventual process – and avoid some potential pitfalls – by using a crowdsourcing approach. Whether it is a new name, brand, or even a new product line, involving both customers and employees will produce far more actionable input than you might get from a traditional third-party research effort. In some cases, it will make sense to combine both efforts to produce the optimal results.


If you are a business seeking increased relevance in your market space and engagement with your customers and employees, you have new options with crowdsourcing. These and other strategies may provide you with a number of innovative solutions to your various needs and challenges.  When it comes to content, you can be assured of high relevance when your employees, customers and clients are involved in the process of generating that content.

Choosing the right crowdsourcing techniques and approaches will determine the success of your effort, along with the added benefit of increased market visibility.

Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
Mark Gadala-Maria Member
Mark is digital marketer and the proud owner of Lucid Digital based in Miami, FL. He is also a regular contributor to many major publications online and enjoys sharing his industry expertise. You can usually find him blogging about inbound marketing strategies and effective design to increase conversions.