Two years ago, someone approached us with a
They were going to create a crowdsourcing a site
where members would share product/service manuals. This place, they excitedly
explained, would be the ultimate venue in
the world(!), for product/service information.
You can guess our first question. “Who wants to spend their spare time sharing
product manuals with each other?”
Wikipedia, Kickstar, Kiva, and a few others have
created a success bias in crowdsourcing efforts. Like traditional communities,
most crowdsourcing efforts fail (abysmally). We only hear about the successes.
They fail because the motivations of users
aren’t considered. Why would people want to spend their spare time undertaking
that activity? If your answer is “because
it would help other people”, you’re going to struggle.
To understand any crowdsourcing effort we need
to understand the nature of commitment. People will undertake
crowdsourcing-based activity for one of three reasons:
to the topic. Wikis for Star Trek, Star Wars, traveling, and
a few others thrive through sheer passion for the topic alone. You’re not in
this group. Trust me, you’re not in this group.
of ownership of the topic. Wikipedia thrived, in part, because
anyone with a sense of ownership over a topic would create and curate that
topic on Wikipedia. I loved Seth’s IdeaVirus book, so I created a Wikipedia
entry for it. If you have a large group of people, each of whom have a specific
niche within the crowdsourcing effort’s broader topic, the idea of creating and
curating information can be powerful.
This also works for most review sites. People
whom have visited the venue or experience the product feel a sense of ownership
of that topic. TripAdvisor thrives on this.
reputation. This is related to the above. Many
crowdsourcing efforts succeed because members are trying to increase their own
reputation. By creating and sharing content, they’re enhancing their own profile
amongst their target audience. Quora is a great example of this.
to the group. This is the most common. Members are committed
to others in the group. This means they know and like other members. They want
to achieve something together. Unless members have a high level of familiarity
with others, this won’t work.
with the group’s success. Once a crowdsourcing efforts is
thriving, everyone wants to associate their own identity with the group’s
success. This doesn’t work for you until your crowdsourcing effort is thriving.
Of the five listed above, ownership,
increased reputation, and commitment to the group which are easiest to
If you want to build a successful crowdsourcing
effort, look for those that feel a sense of
ownership over niche topic, provide messages related to enhanced reputation, or build strong connections between the group before you begin.