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Crowdsourcing is one of the most controversial business practices of our time. On one hand, it seems like a great way to involve the public in your brand while also getting necessary goods for a cut-rate. On the other hand, many businesses have found that the results are less-than-professional and even plagiarized. The power of crowdsourcing depends on what you are using it for. Here are a few tips for making crowdsourcing work for you.

Plan to pay.

Many small business owners look to crowd-sourcing as a place to get free or low cost goods, only to be disappointed when the result is exactly what they paid for. You get what you pay for, and crowdsourcing is no exception. You should give a prize in cash or goods for the winning product. The larger this prize, the better the end result. You may actually offend people with real talent by underbidding for their time and effort.

Publicize your contest.

You should post information about your contest at your website, your small business locations, and any other areas that you have a presence. Also put out press releases explaining the contest; if even a few media outlets pick up the story, it will add up to immense free exposure.

Be specific.

No one is a mind reader, so make sure you can put your wants and needs into text before venturing into the crowdsourcing world. Offer examples of the work you want done and be very specific about details. Otherwise, there is a good chance that you will get multiple products, none of which actually meet your needs.

Offer intangible as well as tangible rewards.

You of course should offer a prize or other reward for the hard work of your crowdsourced workforce. However, recognition and positive feedback have value as well. If you can’t afford to pay a premium for the premium product that you need, include intangible benefits in addition to the main prize.

Don’t crowdsource highly skilled work.

You wouldn’t select a medical specialist by allowing physicians to bid based on money and length of treatment, would you? Or an interior designer to work in your house? There’s a good chance you would select the least skilled physician based on price or other factors that are not relevant to the end product. The same goes for any other skilled field. Don’t crowdsource logo design, writing services, or anything that requires education and talent. Many companies have done this and regretted the end result.

Keep veto power.

Kraft recently tried to crowdsource the naming of a new product. The result was “isnack 2.0”, an awkwardly named product that bombed despite the massive number of people who helped to select the name. Anyone could have seen that one coming. After renaming and rebranding the product professionally, it is beginning to bounce back. However, Kraft could have prevented a huge waste of time and profit by maintaining the right to veto this bad idea and return to the drawing board.

No small business owner can do everything themselves, and crowdsourcing is a great way to fill in the gap between your budget and your needs. However, it is important to use this resource only for less skilled, smaller tasks that will not be pivotal in the success of your company.

Mash Bonigala

Mash B. is the Founder & Creative Director of Logo Design Works. Since 1998, Mash has helped thousands of businesses express their brand messages through creative and award winning logo designs.