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Digital Efforts That Draw a Crowd

  |  August 4, 2011   |  Comments

Brands can use crowdsourcing to encourage consumers to actively participate in the creation of digital materials.

Call it the new participation marketing or just another kind of CRM, but crowdsourcing is as a la mode as digital marketing tactics get. The concept that has worked so well for Wikipedia is making a strong appearance in online marketing campaigns and new sites alike.

For digital strategists, it's a natural progression. By now most of us have been thoroughly convinced of the value of social media to our clients' brands, and what is crowdsourcing if not another form of online social interaction? Instead of allowing consumers to demonstrate their affinity for a brand by liking or following it on a social network, crowdsourcing encourages them to actively participate in the creation of digital materials.

A Crowdsourced Campaign 4moms

For rich media social platform Tongal, crowdsourcing is part and parcel with process. The concept behind the two-year old company is to break marketing creativity into parts and invite consumers across the web to contribute what they can with the ultimate goal of producing great campaigns for advertisers. A construction worker in Wisconsin can't exactly walk into a leading agency and pitch his ad idea for the work boots he's grown to love, but he can do it on Tongal – and possibly win cash prizes in the process.

The latest advertiser to utilize the site for the purpose of producing marketing content is 4moms, the product development company behind an infant seat called mamaRoo. This month, 4moms launched a campaign that solicits parents and other consumers who are passionate about its product to submit a 60-second video that excites (and incites) other buyers.


In true crowdsourcing fashion, no one consumer is expected to do all the work. A "tournament style process" is being used whereby winners will be chosen from each of the three phases – concept, pitch, and video – and the winning content will be applied to each subsequent phase (for example, a consumer submitting a production pitch can base it on one of the five winning concepts, instead of her own idea).

The advantages of this approach to brands is obvious: it's a cost-effective way to attain campaign creative that's all but guaranteed to speak to consumers – because it was made by them.

"From a brand perspective, this not only gives your core consumers a voice, it presents the opportunity to have the people who are most familiar with a product or service contribute to its marketing, regardless of technical skill," says James DeJulio, president and co-founder of Tongal. "Since 4moms had already built a network of brand loyalists via their site and Facebook, it was easy to bring them into the Tongal process and tap their individual expertise as the input for our video crowdsourcing project."

Consumers Share WhatWasThere

Even as it's being adopted by digital marketers, crowdsourcing continues to influence digital projects that are socially-conscious and have the greater good of society in mind. One such effort comes from digital marketing agency Enlighten (full disclosure: I work with the company), which earlier this year launched WhatWasThere.com. The site is a visual historical database that relies on Internet users to submit old photographs and build a geographic history of the world on an image-based map.


The platform uses a mix of crowdsourcing and Google Street View to source and present historical photographs of houses, commercial buildings, hotels, schools, and the like alongside the current view. With the help of consumers who value the idea of preserving geographic history, WhatWasThere couples the frail photos from their grandparents' attics with current photos of streets and buildings to present a rich picture of how locations – from that beloved local hardware store turned Quiznos to the once-magnificent cinema house – have changed over time. Nostalgia and emotion have played a major part in the site's success.

The result isn't just a daily compulsion for history buffs but a demonstration of how to use the web to unearth valuable content and make it appealing to the masses. There are plenty of great ideas, materials, and executions out there, it's just a matter of asking for them – and offering some benefits in return. "Technology has made it so easy to connect with people around the world it was just a matter of time until people realized the power of crowdsourcing. No matter what the task, it just makes sense that having the potential of millions of people working on it will get the job done better and faster," Steve Glauberman, CEO of Enlighten says.

In other words, stay true to the idea of social commitment in digital form, apply it to your own brand, and the possibilities for a successful crowdsourced project are endless.


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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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