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Guest Post: The Future of Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is now one of the many ways that brands harness the enthusiasm and creativity of fans for promotional purposes. As the practice has become more popular, digital tools are becoming more ubiquitous and crowdsourcing campaigns are easier to execute for a wider variety of businesses.

In this morning’s guest post, Richard Spiegel, founder and CEO of CrowdTogether.com, looks at the present and future of crowdsourcing. Click through to read on, and use the comments and @PRNewser to share your thoughts.

Move the Needle with Crowdsourcing by Richard Spiegel, founder and CEO of CrowdTogether.com

PR professionals have entered a new era. They now manage complex two-way relationships where individuals exist both as a community member and contributor simultaneously. Those who understand the power that lies within communities, embrace members’ duality, and find smart ways to give people the voice and influence they desire will drive powerful results.

Crowdsourcing as a PR tool is a fun way to get a community of participants activated and engaged as a lead-up to an event or as part of a campaign. Alvin Toffler, author of The Third Wave wrote: “People don’t want to consume passively; they’d rather participate in the development and creation of products meaningful to them.” This prophetic viewpoint is looking increasingly true for organizations that want to engage their constituents.

Take Toyota’s Sponsafier campaign, for example. They’ve invited their NASCAR fans to design a car—not as engineers or mechanics, but as graphic designers. Fans can design a car on the Sponsafier website, share it with friends online, and if it gets enough votes, their design will be produced and featured at the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race.

Toyota, a Japanese manufacturer in a sport dominated by American car companies, was looking for a way to better connect with NASCAR fans. The Sponsafier campaign’s effectiveness was in its ability to make connections by engaging fans at a deeper level resulting in a genuine feeling of ownership and participation. The Sponsafier campaign was a masterful example of the power of crowdsourcing.

Clearly, when brands employ crowdsourcing to engage their community, the benefits are symbiotic. By giving up some control and handing it over to the consumer, brands are able to turn participation into strong connections.  In this exchange consumers gain creative influence over something that’s meaningful to them. However, to maximize the success of this new relationship it’s critical to understand what will motivate someone to participate and what barriers to entry exist for them to be involved.

Fortunately, today co-creation is not limited to big brands with big marketing budgets. Community and group organizers have access to free, easy-to-use tools that allow them to use crowdsourcing to involve their members.  In the future, you can expect to see things like charity events, where nonprofits will invite participants to design and vote for their fundraiser’s t-shirt; bands that will engage fans in the creative process by asking them to design and vote for concert posters or album covers; and micro breweries that will invite consumers to design and vote on bottle labels. Communities will also host photo contests, audio contests, video contests—the opportunities to co-create are endless.

In the next five years brands from various industries like automobile manufacturing and apparel companies will continue to develop and expand ways for consumers to participate in the creation of products. Crowdsourcing is going to expand beyond big ideas and big brands into smaller, everyday groups that we all belong to; think youth groups, intramural teams, or local bands.

This doesn’t mean every initiative or decision will be crowdsourced, but given the billion connected people in the world, and the advances in technology that allow us to create and share ideas so quickly, it would be foolish to overlook everyday folks as a resource.

[Image via NME] Richard Spiegel can be reached at rich@crowdtogether.com and @CrowdTogether

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