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Crowdsourcing driving co-creation dialogue and CSR

A recent study by Weber Shandwick’s Social Impact (you can see here its summary) reinforced the opportunity of web 2.0 communication to engage and drive home the responsible culture of a company through crowdsourcing. With two initial striking findings of this survey of over 200 CSR-related executives in Fortune companies: already 44% of companies interviews had used some form of crowdsourcing and that 95% of companies felt that the use of crowdsourcing had been beneficial.

In case you are wondering, what is crowdsourcing in the first place?

I went to one of the best examples of crowdsourcing – wikipedia – to offer you a definition:

“Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call”

Web 2.0 platforms have opened a new era in crowdsourcing and specially in our passion to have responsible, values-based approaches drive success. For example you can ask “your crowd” to provide feedback about a new sustainable product you are launching or more generic ideas on how to make your company more sustainable.

The key to crowdsourcing is of course to make the conversation relevant and worthwhile to your audience. The higher the “purpose” of the topic and the more likely you are to get good ideas, high levels of engagement. So if you ask your “crowd” to give you their opinion on how you can increase your sales by 10%, guess what, the level of engagement will be pretty low. But if your question is how can we best “refresh the world” through a CSR campaign, like Pepsi-Cola did with its web 2.0 refresheverything platform you will see how over 3,3 million people (!) joined in the campaign. What Pepsi decided to do was – instead of investing millions of dollars in a campaign to convince people how responsible their practices may be – they invested the same amount in funding initiatives that would “refresh the world”, improve the world in one way or the other. Most importantly they allowed the “crowd” to both post their own projects and then let people decide which projects would refresh the world better and  should be funded.

Why does a web 2.0 platform become the ideal place where crowdsourcing can take place?

– It makes it very easy to handle interactions with large groups of people

– If the conversation is worthwhile and purposeful it is also easy to reach a much wider group of people than your company’s direct contacts could reach.

– Leveraging the “word of mouth” driver that is so particularly powerful on web 2.0 social platforms, it is very likely that the “friends” of people engaged in your idea exchange platform will become aware and either join in the conversation or promote it to an ever widening audience.

– With the right incentives people will feel very satisfied at having contributed as opposed to being forced into a survey or poll.

But let’s now go back to the Social Impact survey that we mentioned at the beginning of the post to and highlight some of the main benefits that these Fortune managers found and that are most commonly found when using crowdsourcing:

36% said that it surfaces new perspectives and diverse opinions 26% mentioned it as a way to build engagement and relationships with key audiences 22% said it invites clients and customers from nontraditional sources to contribute to ideas and opinions 16% highlighted how it brings new energy into the process of generating ideas

It therefore becomes an interesting opportunity offered by web 2.0 technology to open the dialogue, inviting people to participate in Responsible Business Solutions building, thus engaging them more closely to your brand and purpose.

Three additional suggestions were highlighted in the study on how to create most value from crowdsourcing: 1. Listen to what people are saying, be open, use this to align your offering to the public good, to what the public wants. 2. Give feedback on how you used people’s ideas, engage as much as possible reacting positively to individual’s inputs. 3. Create a constant flow, don’t start and stop engagement around a single project. Continue the conversations so that new thinking can always come to you, even after a CSR campaign has been launched to continuously hear of the evolving needs of your public.

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