The Power of Crowds – How Crowd Sourcing Can Enhance Your Blog or Website
As you’re no doubt aware the internet is an incredibly powerful tool for communication and one that has changed the face of business, the way we communicate with friends and colleagues and how we seek out information. Almost all of us benefit from this in some way on a daily basis whether we use it to send the occasional e-mail, check where the nearest restaurant is, or in the case of webmasters like you and me – run our business and make a living.
But the power of the internet can go beyond that, and the ability to communicate with thousands or millions of people at the touch of a button is something that has applications beyond just sharing information. Every person you connect with is an opportunity to learn and to employ particular skills and the internet allows you to take advantage of this fact. That’s where crowdsourcing comes in – where you start to use this unprecedented connectivity to complete projects that otherwise could never be completed, and to generate ideas and solutions to problems too great for a single person or organization. Crowdsourcing is tapping into the ‘hive mind’ and using this as something to your advantage.
Crowdsourcing Design and Direction
So how does this work? Well actually there are many different forms of crowdsourcing but what they all have in common is that they tap into collective intelligence of your visitors or market in order to come up with creative solutions and ideas.
An obvious example then is market research, and here you can use crowdsourcing in order to come up with an idea for your new website, or to improve the design of your existing one. You might for instance open a thread on your forum or posting a quick survey asking users what they like and don’t like about your website and then make note of each of the comments that you receive in response. This way you can see what the general audience that use your site wants, you can get ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of yourself, and you can let your visitors feel involved. It’s free market research and it’s well tailored to your target audience because you’re asking the exact people who use your site what they want and then giving it to them. For a more subtle and less intrusive way of accomplishing this you can even just have your visitors vote on suggested alterations you’re thinking of making.
You can also get your visitors to help you with things you can’t do on your own, which means you could get them to suggest names for your site if you’re stuck until you get one you like, or recruit someone with technical skills to answer problems for you. In a way checking out Stack Overflow is a form of crowdsourcing, as is using open source code and if you open up your code to users then you’ll find people are much more likely to join in with the community feel of what your doing and help create something truly unique.
More impressively perhaps you can also crowdsource your content by inviting users to contribute in some way and then increasing your number of visitors. The most famous example of this is of course Wikipedia, which would have been almost impossible for a single person or organization to complete on their own (some estimates say it would be over a mile thick were it published as a book).
In some ways just having a forum on your site means you’re already crowdsourcing, particularly if you have a lot of questions and answers on the site. At the same time though you can come up with more ambitious and structured projects such as crowdsourcing a novel where you get each user to write the next line, or crowdsourcing a resource of some kind by getting people to recount personal stories. If you do this as well as crowdsourcing the design and technical aspects then eventually you can liberate yourself from these tasks and become instead a kind of director of people – and watch as your project grows beyond you and takes on a life of its own.
And then once you’ve got the hang of crowdsourcing design and ideas, you can move onto crowdfunding and learn how the power of the masses can help you to even find sponsorship for your big ideas. Tap into the power of the crowd, and the possibilities are endless…