Imagine this. You just had a slew of ideas rejected for new mobile telephone campaign you’ve been working on. But online, you come across a request from another mobile company looking for fresh ideas from the community. They’re crowdsourcing for content, and you’re sitting on some. Do you submit the work and try to win anonymously? Does your client own the rejected work? Should you never, under any circumstances, participate in a crowdsourcing assignment from a brand that competes with one of your agency’s clients? Or have (and will) all the rules change?
These are but a few of the many questions and issues that are bound to arise as crowdsourcing becomes more and more popular. Will creativity become commoditized? Will content creators, individuals and agencies demand more ownership of their ideas so that they can, in fact, offer them up in multiple ways? How will compensation work? Will most of what gets served up as content be crap? Or will the crowd, through its sheer volume, generate better, more compelling ideas?
For me, the real question is this: Will we continue to use this new technique in the most boring and traditional of ways, simply creating competitions, calls for entry, and gigantic (dare I use the word; it’s not my term) gang bangs? Or, will we let crowdsourcing inspire us to come up with new applications, products and creative experiences we haven’t even thought of yet because they were previously impossible.
I don’t know if we’ll answer a fraction of these questions, but next week, John Winsor, you, and I can try.
Join us via Twitter, or live at All About Crowdsourcing. Bring questions; bring answers. Hey, if we’re going to talk about crowdsourcing, we ought be practicing it, too.
Oh, and while you’re at it, check out one of my favorite examples of crowdsourcing.
Yesterday my Twitter friend John Winsor sent me a couple of recent blog posts by Alex Bogusky. John and I are talking crowdsourcing at a Boston Ad Club event next week and he thought Alex’s post on the subject – using the ubiquitous logo competition as an example — would be interesting.
But we could learn an awful lot if Alex did choose to write a few more posts. I mean the guy probably has more to share with the advertising and creative industry than anyone since Bill Bernbach. I don’t know Alex personally — we’ve said hello a few time at award shows — but like you, I do know what he’s accomplished. So here’s what I think Alex should be blogging about.
Why agencies need to be more courageous
This is one agency that has always been willing to take risks with its work. Playing it safe does not seem to be in its DNA. The entire industry could use some encouragement.
The importance of challenging the status quo
A long time ago, Mullen did this. Crispin’s taken it a step further. They’ve been a challenger brand themselves and it seems to be a mindset that continues. What can young start-up agencies and individuals learn from this?
Remembering to promote yourself not just your clients
No one’s better at this than Alex. Yes, you need the goods, but he and his agency never miss a beat. There are lessons here for companies and individuals.
Reasons not to listen to the critics
For years, every time Crispin did something that got attention, the rest of the industry immediately labeled it a gimmick. “They can’t do it for big brands.” “They can’t to TV.” There are lots of lessons on how to listen; why not one on when not to?
How to deliver consistently fresh work
They do it over and over. From Subservient Chicken, to Mini, to the King, to unfriend your Facebook pals. No doubt other agencies and start-ups could benefit from stories about the agency’s environment, standards, hiring practices, and commitment to developing young talent.
The role of environment in stimulating creativity
Can other companies learn from the Boulder, Colorado space? Is the thinking transferable? Based on some of the miserable work environments I’ve seen in office parks across America, too many businesses forget about the importance of physical surroundings.
Creating a culture that perpetuates itself
I know a lot of people who’ve done great work at CPB and couldn’t replicate it elsewhere and visa versa. Why not advise other young companies on the importance of culture?
So, what do you think? Should Alex write another post about social media or crowdsourcing? Or share what he really knows? Alex Blogusky anyone?
In response to a request for information, someone else declared, “We’ll bring in our expert to talk to you about Twitter.”
Yes it does say something on my business card about social media, but the last thing I would ever call myself is an expert. Or guru. Or thought leader.
Webster’s defines expert this way: “one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject.” The emphasis isn’t on skilled, or knowledgeable; it’s on mastery. That’s pretty hard to achieve in the land of social media, which despite the recent gold rush, has barely been mined. Never mind that there are new platforms, technologies and communities being created every day. Or that no one can predict what will become the next big viral hit. Or that we still haven’t even seen the most innovative uses of Twitter’s API.
The real reason it’s impossible to be an expert is that no one knows what constitutes expertise in this space. What do you have to master? SEO? Technology? Platforms? Creativity? Content creation? Community? Service? Relationship?
If you know the answer to that you’re way ahead of me. I prefer to be called one of the other “e” words: enthusiast, explorer, experimenter. Maybe I should put that on my business card.
What do you think? Is it possible to master social media? (If you like some of what you see here, you can subscribe with the non-orange RSS button up at the top right corner of this page. Thanks for stopping by.)
You probably still get requests like that. Either your own company or a client wakes up a little late and realizes that it simply can’t avoid social media any longer. Perhaps it suddenly noticed that its largest competitor has 5000 fans on Facebook and is bragging about it in its annual report. Maybe the urgency was inspired by our challenging economy, giving someone the bright idea that a presence on Facebook or Twitter could save them money on paid media. Either way, the next thing you know, everyone’s scurrying around to get up a fan page.
But here’s a better idea. Take a deep breath, back up, use this new enthusiasm for social media as an opportunity to educate your client or employer. Here are four things we try and get clients to understand about community and conversation before we slap up a Facebook page.
1. It’s not about the platform or the technology; it’s about the relationship you want to create.
So what is that relationship? How do you want it to change over time? Are you gathering a community so you can learn from them and gain a better sense of what they want in your products and services? Do you want a place to connect them with each other so they can share ideas, solutions, tips? Or are you hoping to provide them with the kind of content that will build loyalty and evangelists who’ll spread the word? You should each give something and get something out of it. We have our opinion but it’s good to get a client to think about this, too.
2. How does your community want to engage?
In Groundswell, Charline Li and Josh Bernoff tell us there are five types of social media users: creators, critics, joiners, collectors and spectators. So what are yours? Knowing makes a difference in the content you create and share and the strategy you use for inspiring and activating your community. If they’re creators, you need a way for them to add content and perhaps build their own reputation. If they’re joiners you need to create privileges of membership. And if they’re simply spectators, you better damn well create content worth watching or reading.
3. What kind of conversation, content and utility will you offer to make it worth their while?
We remind companies that social media isn’t simply a free place to broadcast your messages. And it can offer much more than accessibility for, and interaction with, a community. Some of the best brands using SM succeed because of the content and utility they provide. The Wine Library makes knowledge about wine accessible to everyone using video. Ford Motor Company created a living laboratory around its new Fiesta. The New York Times offered a way for readers to connect on their own around shared interests. Starbucks gives customers a say in future products and offers. In this space, you are your content.
4. Let your customers lead you
We all know we’re supposed to listen. But we sometimes forget the best way to listen is to ask questions. You don’t need all the answers. Yes you should have a pretty good idea of what you might bring to the party to kick it off, but chances are you’ll be wrong. Rather than start exclusively with the video, announcements and other sound bites you might want to share, have a list of interesting questions. Then ask them. It’s amazing how customers, fans, even critics will help you figure out how to succeed in the space.
5. Know your objectives and have a definition of success.
Usually the first question asked after we tell someone that, yes, we can get them up on Facebook is, “How many fans can we get and how long will it take?” We suggest a different question. “What kind of value can I get from my community if I listen, engage and inspire?” Ten well-connected fans who become evangelists or ambassadors might be more valuable than 5000 semi-committed ones. Focus instead on what you want to accomplish – awareness, feedback, product trial, loyalty, positive buzz, sales – and concentrate on making that happen. If what you have to offer and share is valuable, guess what? The fans and followers will show up.
“Can you get me a Facebook page?” The question may be pre-mature, but it’s the answer that counts. What do you tell your clients when they ask for a Facebook page?
Recently an overly ambitious young copywriter came into my office and asked, “How do I become a creative director?” My answer was simple. “First you’ll have to work your ass off. Nights, weekends, whatever it takes. Second, you’ve got to be incredibly prolific. Plan on coming up with at least 12 ideas for every project you get. If those ideas meet with rejection, plan on coming up with another 12. Third, volunteer for the toughest assignments, the ones everyone else runs away from. And finally, assume total responsibility for the quality of your work by paying attention to every single detail.”
“Wow, that’s great advice,” the copywriter responded. “So that’s what it takes to become a creative director?”
“Oh, no,” I corrected him. “That’s what it takes to become a senior copywriter. Then you keep doing it over and over and over.”
The lesson: focus on performance, never on title or power.
The above story is “borrowed” from a tale that former secretary of state, Colin Powell, likes to tell. The original story is actually about an army private who aspires to become a general.