Crowdsourcing is Social Media with Purpose

The recent news about a suit that is threatening how social media is used that has Internet giants like Facebook and Twitter all up in arms got me thinking about the purpose of social media.

Several years ago, when I was explaining crowdsourcing to someone at a party, they summarized it succinctly by saying “So crowdsourcing is social media with purpose!”   Boy, I couldn’t have said it better myself  (and didn’t), but have never forgotten that description, and have used it many times since.

The  phrase, “crowdsourcing is social media with purpose”  not only captures the power of crowdsourcing, but also exposes the biggest problem with social media  in just six words.  Even as social media has grown,  there are many among us who don’t see the point, or the benefit, or the purpose of it.  Take Twitter for example – you wouldn’t be alone if you don’t see the point, or even think it’s stupid.  While Facebook claims over 1.1 Billion users and 72% of Internet users in the US say they use social networks, lots of people, even those that use it, don’t see the point.  In fact, a Harvard study says people may use, or even be addicted to social media, in large part because it stimulates the same brain pleasure points as eating food, getting money or having even having sex, not because they see a purpose in it.

Crowdsourcing represents a way to harness social media behavior in a way that accomplishes something.   By focusing the sharing of ideas, comments and ranking behavior that billions of people have learned (and may be addicted to) on social networks, organizations can both gain incredibly valuable insight and innovation,  and build stronger bonds with their stakeholders.

People buy into, and support the concept of the shared objective in crowdsourcing.   Unlike the unbridled discourse that you see on many social media sites where there are lots of “negative” posts, there is almost never negative behavior in a well-designed crowdsourcing program.  I say this based on my experience over the past five years and seeing dozens and dozens of crowdsourcing programs.

So what does this mean for your organization?  If you are a non-profit, association, government agency or private company, if you are not using crowdsourcing, you are likely missing out on an opportunity to leverage the power of social media for real, tangible benefit.  Even if you have a Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn company page, etc., you may be missing out on the most powerful way to use social media to let people contribute to your organization’s mission. Over the past seven or eight years, we’ve learned how groups of people behave online,  those billions of people have become comfortable with social media, and we have developed specialized online technology to foster productive crowdsourcing.  We are seeing everyday new examples of the real purpose and benefit that crowdsourcing can deliver, unlike so much of the rest of social media.  Take a look and learn more. 

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1 Comment

  1. JMI December 14, 2013

    Really interesting Randy, thanks​!​

    I think that you would be really interested in some recent research that I have come across explaining crowds and citizen science.​ ​In particular I feel you may find these two emerging pieces of research very relevant:

    - The Theory of Crowd Capital
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2193115

    - The Contours of Crowd Capability
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2324637

    Powerful stuff, no?

    reply

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