If two heads are better than one; just think what a crowd can accomplish.  With that in mind, many companies are turning to crowdsourcing for enhanced business collaboration and more.

Crowdsourcing, a term coined by Jeff Howe in 2006 in a Wired magazine article, refers to “the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.” While capitalizing on the combined intelligence of the crowd is not a new concept, social media platforms and other new technology have taking crowdsourcing to a new level.

As a small business owner, crowdsourcing can be a boon to your operation. Instead of hiring someone full time or on a contract basis to handle a project or solve a problem, you have access to a large pool of highly talented and creative individuals.

Make the most of crowdsourcing

Today there are many crowdsourcing platforms with their own specialized services and features. As an example, there are sites where you can get public feedback on a new product or service offering.  Your community can provide input on what customers want and what they’d be more likely to purchase.

Other sites enable you to post tasks that your team can’t handle because of time constraints. Participants bid on the projects. The assignment can be short lived – research a project, translate a document or create a mailing list. There are other sites to use if you need people with specialized knowledge or expertise, such as design a logo or create a website. For very complex problems or questions, some sites enable you to post a challenging question and responders offer to provide an answer for a set price.

Ensure successful crowdsourcing

Before you go about engaging the crowd, there are several things to keep in mind. Digital marketer Shiv Singh offers several suggestions in “Making Crowdsourcing Work.  My best practices”  Among them, he recommends:

Plan: Determine what you are trying to accomplish and choose the appropriate platform for your needs. Be sure you choose the right crowd.

Set expectations: Participants need to feel valued. Don’t limit their involvement or dismiss their contributions. Make sure you are seriously looking for collaboration and be willing to incorporate the ideas you get from participants.

Clarify roles: Do you want your participants to just provide ideas or be involved in the development of a product or concept? Be clear about what you want from participants at every stage of the process.

Tap into talent appropriately: Not everyone is a designer or engineer. You might have experts handle the project development and others vote on the contributions and make a final selection.

Crowdsourcing is a great way to engage with prospective customers and build relationships. Also you can expedite a process when you seek participation from many. But crowdsourcing takes work. A lot of people may be involved. Make their contributions count by providing feedback and giving support.

How have you successfully used crowdsourcing for a project or to develop a product or service offering?