In crowdsourcing, companies leverage the work of many distributed individuals with whom they have loose, ad-hoc relationships. Doing so can offer competitive advantages. So say Lukas Biewald, founder and CEO Crowdflower, a labor-on-demand company that builds technology to get reliable results out of crowds, and Leila Janah, founder of Samasource, a nonprofit that provides poor women, youth, and refugees throughout the world with computer-based work.
It's been four years since Jeff Howe coined the term "crowdsourcing." Since, Facebook has engaged thousands of members to translate the site into more than 65 languages. Pizza Hut uses virtual order-takers through the cloud, and if you need a new logo, you can tap the design pool through 99Designs. Biewald and Janah have compiled six of their favorite tools for crowdsourcing in small business.
MyGenGo offers crowdsourced human translators that anyone can connect with through an API. That means you can upload articles, blog posts, or really any content and have it worked on by a scattered cloud of amateur translators while you sleep.
On-demand transcription service CastingWords posts tasks on Amazon Mechanical Turk, where it pays people small amounts of money to transcribe short segments of audio. Long or short, upload your audio and CastingWords will have it done within 24 hours.
Kickstartser offers "crowdfunding" for game designers, artists, musicians, journalists, and other creative types. Users post projects of public interest and ask the crowd for funding; the crowd pays only if you attain your funding goal. Diaspora, an open-source social network with extra privacy features, recently raised more than $200,000 from nearly 6,500 donors on Kickstarter.
There's no substitute for human insight in finding what search terms will be most relevant for your customers – not even Google. The experts that optimize keywords at Trada are rewarded based on the amount of money they save the advertiser.
Here's a way to tap the crowd for customer support. Instead of answering every customer’s question, companies can set up a GetSatistfaction page where their users answer each others' questions. This reduces support costs and provides insight into new ways that customers might be using your product.
Two companies, Gerson Lehrman Group and Maven Research, have collected networks of hundreds of thousands of professionals and offer a way to hire an expert for an hour at a time. The rates can be steep – on average, experts are paid hundreds of dollars an hour – but the ability to find someone quickly with an exact answer to an esoteric question can be incredibly valuable.