AU MA Social Media

A class blog about social media.

Crowd + Outsourcing = Crowdsourcing!

Posted by szczcass on May 18, 2011

Well, here we are, climbing up that social technographics ladder whether we like it or not! 🙂

Lately, it seems as though I cannot escape two buzzwords: infographics and crowdsourcing. So I thought, “an infographic on crowdsourcing!”

My first exposure to the term crowdsourcing was at work- I was writing a letter to a scholarship donor whose student recipient recently took a position with a company that specialized in crowdsourcing. I had to look up the term just to make sure it was legitimate (so did my boss…and the recipient of the letter). Now it seems as though I can’t escape the word! It was discussed in Groundswell and within moments of following @mashable on Twitter– this image was shared.

I wanted to share the infographic with the group for all of us visual learners who were still left wondering, “huh?” after reading about it in Groundswell.

I think crowdsourcing has great potential but buyer beware: if you ask your audience for ideas, they will expect you to implement them. If you ask them to produce content, it will forever live on the internet (creating a nightmare for brand managers). You need to talk to your audience, but you need to be absolutely committed to following through on what you hear. Otherwise, be prepared for the revolt.

An example that comes to mind is my alma mater’s mascot search. Claiming that the college never had an official mascot (first mistake), they put out the call to all alumni, faculty, staff, students, etc. for mascot ideas. They would choose the top three and then  the university community would be able to vote for their favorite (IdeaShare!). Well, let’s just say the university community, alumni in particular, were none to pleased with the choices they were left with: a flying squirrel, a lake beast, and a pheonix.  What seemed like a great idea (let the people choose!) quickly turned into quite a disaster for the university as it fielded complaints via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, blog comments, etc.- if it was a means of communication, people were using it to complain.

So what can we learn form this? You need to listen to the groundswell even before you crowdsource. Had the adminstration done significant research prior to launching the Mascot Search Task Force, they likely would have discovered a lot of the issues they ran into too late in the game. Many people have pleaded with the administration not to change the mascot (which is currently an unofficial bomber-pilot), but they are not listening. Crowdsourcing gone bad, in my opinion.

Have any of you tried to crowdsource ideas at work, or have you participated in crowdsouring yourself? If so, share in the comments! I’d love to hear what others think about the potential benefits and costs.



2 Responses to “Crowd + Outsourcing = Crowdsourcing!”

  1. flying squirrel? Ha!
    I agree that one of the problems is that people expect their ideas to be implemented. If you give people ownership of something you may be inviting this sort of behavior (like the Ford Superfan example from class).
    Another downside could be that crowdsourcing can give the impression that an organization doesn’t want to spend their own resources to come up with ideas, so empower their public do that work for free and call it a ‘contest’ or something. Also, an intellectual property problem seems to be brewing — at least the lawyers will get paid (play Debbie Downer music here).

  2. JC said

    Bomber pilot vs. Flying squirrels & lake beasts…no contest.

    This is quite interesting and excellent example on how good intentions, good technology, and not well thoughtout strategy can go wrong.

    I agree with your analysis on how just having a task group would be helpful before “opening up” for community input. More background, direction, and interviews could have prevented headaches.

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