SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues. Last week’s poll question: Have you ever crowdsourced a problem? Were you happy with the result?
- No, but I’m interested in trying it: 32.72%
- Yes, and I would do it again: 27.78%
- Not sure what crowdsourcing is: 21.60%
- No, and I’m not interested in trying it: 13.58%
- Yes, but I wouldn’t do it again: 4.32%
Crowdsourcing is like the practical uncle of social media: none of the fuzzy nonsense about engagement, just a laser focus on solving a problem. Done well, it can be incredibly satisfying and refreshingly simple. Done poorly, it blow up in your face and leave you wondering why you didn’t just tackle the problem the “hard way” like you always do.
The SmartBrief readers who took our poll and said they’ve tried to crowdsource a problem in the past seem to have had good luck with the process. Almost 28% of all respondents say the results were good enough that they’d try it again, compared with about 4% who were unimpressed.
For the majority of our readers, however, crowdsourcing remains a mystery. Whether you’re seriously considering it or just now finding out about the concept, I can say that crowdsourcing a problem can reap rich, often surprising rewards. But like a lot of aspects of social media, your success or failure really depends on three things:
- The ability to ask detailed questions about the problem you’re trying to solve. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? How will you know when you’ve been successful? How will you track outcomes and modify your process?
- The ability to create awareness of your problem within the right channels. Sometimes you’ll be looking to your die-hard fans to help you solve a problem. Sometimes you want people who’ve never heard of you. Sometimes you want one talented professional. Sometimes you want a crowd of worker bees. Some social networks are better suited to solving some problems than others. Know who you’re trying to reach and how you’ll motivate them to participate.
- The ability to articulate what you need. Vague problem descriptions lead to unsatisfactory results every time. Empower your crowd to help you by explaining the problem in as much detail as you can — along with the criteria you’ll be using to judge successful solutions from unsuccessful ones.
If you’ve crowdsourced a problem before, was the experience positive or negative? If you’re looking into the process, what are you excited and/or worried about?