3 Ways to Amplify Small-Business Marketing with Crowdsourcing If you're looking to jump-start your marketing, consider enlisting your online fans.

By Susan Gunelius

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Don't have time or money to do all of the marketing you'd like? Why not get your customers, consultants, freelancers, experts, writers, and more to help you? That's what crowdsourcing is, and it's a great way to enhance small business marketing efforts. By tapping into the "crowd" (particularly the massive online crowd), you can jumpstart your social media and content marketing efforts, extend your brand reach, and amplify your messages through word-of-mouth marketing.

Crowdsourcing initiatives for marketing can be grouped into three distinct categories, which are described below along with easy ways to get the crowd involved so your messages spread wider and your brand and business grow faster.

1. Crowdsourcing for content marketing

One of the easiest and most effective ways to leverage the reach of the crowd is through content marketing. Brands like The Huffington Post and American Express OPEN Forum grew exponentially thanks to crowdsourcing. Both tapped into the crowd of industry experts and invited them to write free content for the websites. In exchange, writers received free links back to their own sites and an opportunity to get in front of larger audiences than they could reach on their own.

Related: From Intern to Venture-Backed Entrepreneur With a Little Help From Big Data

You can do the same thing by inviting customers, authors, business partners, and anyone else who could benefit from free cross-promotion or simply would enjoy having a place to publish their opinions online to write content for your business blog. You'd be surprised how many online media organizations and large businesses use crowdsourcing for content publishing.

Keep in mind, content can come in many forms, including reviews, comments, images, video, and more. For example, Skechers launched a crowdsourcing marketing initiative that tied into its rewards programs. Members of the Skechers rewards program earn points not just from purchases but also from content they publish on the Skechers website such as product reviews and answers to questions from other customers. Crowdsourcing for content marketing can tie in seamlessly with small business loyalty programs, too.

2. Crowdsourcing for social media marketing

To leverage crowdsourcing for social media marketing, invite customers to pin content to your pinboards on Pinterest or share pictures and videos on your Facebook Page. For example, encourage people to share pictures of themselves using your products! If you prefer Twitter, set up a public Twitter account using a tool like GroupTweet, which enables 100,000 people to tweet to the same account, and invite people to publish tweets related to your business, products, industry, and so on to that account.

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You can even turn the process of sharing content into a contest where the person who publishes the winning photo or video or publishes the most content gets a prize. Big brands do this very successfully all the time. For example, Heineken used fan-generated content as part of a campaign related to its 2012 Olympic Games sponsorship for a Facebook promotion. It's easy, affordable, and very effective for small businesses, too!

3. Crowdsourcing for design

Need a new logo or another type of marketing design? Use a site like Crowdspring or 99 designs to get design submissions from a crowd of individuals with varying levels of expertise and an endless amount of creativity. Need a picture that you can use on your blog, website, or marketing materials legally but can't find the right one without paying more than you can afford? Post your request on Koi.io (formerly FotoKoi) and let the crowd of photographers help you. You can even tap into the crowd for a new slogan using Slogan Slingers where founder Rich Davis explains, "Most slogan projects cost between $50 and $900."

Believe it or not, crowdsourcing for logo design and other marketing design projects is very common. From the local pizza business in Pennsylvania that used Slogan Slingers for a new slogan tailored to the shop to the U.S. Department of the Interior which used crowdsourcing for a new logo design via Crowdspring, the practice of turning marketing needs over to the crowd is becoming more and more popular.

Bottom-line, there are many ways to leverage the crowd to assist you with directly and indirectly promoting your business. Don't be afraid to get creative and always encourage your audience to engage with you and join the conversation. Don't ask them to promote your business. Instead, ask them to share brand stories and experiences. The power of the crowd comes from allowing them to take control of the conversation and the brand experience. Let them make your brand their own so they become loyal and vocal brand advocates that extend beyond a single crowdsourcing initiative.

Related: A New Way to Crowdsource Customer Feedback

Susan Gunelius

Marketing, Branding, Copywriting, Email and Social Media Expert

Susan Gunelius is CEO of KeySplash Creative Inc., a marketing communications and strategic branding company. She has authored a dozen books about marketing, branding, social media, copywriting and technology and is the founder and editor in chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, a blog for business women.

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