Want to Harness the Power of the Crowd? Consider These Tips Crowdsourcing is altering the way companies come up with innovative ideas and accomplish large and small tasks.

By Catherine Clifford

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Many hands make light work. Add to that the Internet, and the power of the crowd is changing the way people work and come up with ideas.

Crowdsourcing involves getting many people to participate in performing a task or generating an idea. The rise in crowdsourcing over the past few years is shifting "where decisions are made, how they are made, how you engage intelligence, how you engage labor" and it is transforming the business landscape, says David Alan Grier, author of the forthcoming Crowdsourcing for Dummies (For Dummies, April 2013). "Basically, if you don't follow along, if you don't say there is something here that I might be able to use, you can very quickly find yourself in a place where your business is obsolete or not competitive." Grier was speaking yesterday at Crowdopolis, a crowdsourcing conference in New York City.

Related: Crowdopolis: Crowdsource Like the Big Guys

If you want to integrate crowdsourcing into your business, here are tips for success.

1. Split tasks up into small chunks. If you are looking to crowdsource a project, break the work into bite-size, manageable parts, says David Bratvold, founder of Daily Crowdsource, a San Diego, Calif.-based website, which offers news, research and guidance on crowdsourcing to large corporations. The crowdsource philosophy is that it is more efficient to have each person do the small piece of a large project that he or she is best at than it is to have one person do an entire project from start to finish.

2. Give participants instant gratification. People are motivated to work for rewards and recognition. Idea-generation platform IdeaScale gives out badges to members of a crowdsourcing community depending on how each person best contributes to the community, says IdeaScale co-founder Rob Hoehn. Embee Mobile, a San Francisco-based company that gathers intelligence from the crowd for consumer market-research firms, motivates its community of users to perform tasks or give opinions by giving out points that can be exchanged for money, says Eric Chan, the site's co-founder. In India or Bangladesh, Chan says, he can pay as little as 10 cents to motivate people to perform tasks, such as taking photos of their morning commute. In the U.S., he has to pay between 50 cents and a dollar for a similar service. Both Hoehn and Chan spoke at the crowdsourcing conference.

Related: Quirky: The Solution to the Innovator's Dilemma

3. Define your goals. Before you start a crowdsourcing project, articulate clearly what you intend to get out of the effort. A popular goal for IdeaScale clients lately is saving money, Hoehn says.

4. Keep it simple. If what you are hoping to solicit from the crowd is consumer opinion, your research will be more valuable the larger your crowd. The way to get a large number of responses is to keep your request very quick and easy for consumers to respond to, says Chan. People are more willing to give their thoughts if the question doesn't make them work hard or think much, he says.

5. Validate your users. To maintain the integrity of your crowdsourced feedback, check the members of your crowd and be sure you are not getting multiple responses from a single user, says Chan. The Embee Mobile crowd has 3.4 million community members and so effort goes into preventing fraud, such as fake profiles and spam from one source. In addition to checking user Facebook profiles, gender, age, location and phone numbers, Embee Mobile has built in fraud-detection software.

Related: Crowdfunders Step Up Lobbying for SEC Rules

If you have already implemented crowdsourcing in your business, what is your biggest recommendation for fellow entrepreneurs? Leave a note below and let us know.

Wavy Line
Catherine Clifford

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

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