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Understanding crowdsourcing in 2013

Croudsourcing is a term that was coined by Wired magazine writer and contributing editor Jeff Howe in 2006 from the words “crowd” and “sourcing.” The term refers to tapping a group of people or “crowd” to do “sourcing” of work or collectively contribute to a project. While the applications of crowdsourcing have changed since 2006, the basics of crowdsourcing have remained the same.

Crowdsourcing basics

Fundamentally, croudsourcing is the practice of obtaining needed ideas, services or content by soliciting the contribution of a large group of people or crowd. Different from outsourcing where needed ideas or services are obtained from traditional employees or suppliers, crowdsourcing solicits contributions mainly from virtual or online communities.

Jeff Howe explains: “Crowdsourcing represented the change in attitude towards the internet as solely a communication and research tool, into its modern day guise as a worldwide marketplace, a live business forum and a new-aged globalised workforce. Virtual communities have come to the fore and are very much the present.”

Crowdsourcing for business

Crowdsourcing requires active participation of the “crowd” in a given project. For businesses, this often means active participation of the “crowd” to fundraise for charities and startups or subdivide tedious work. Through crowdsouring, small businesses are able to develop internal applications and compete on an equal footing with big businesses, something hitherto thought impossible.

For example, Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, grew into the giant, indispensible reference it is today by tapping into the power of the “crowd.” The online encyclopedia is collectively created and edited by a group of volunteers who ensure the encyclopedia continues grow. Wikipedia can now easily hold its own against giant traditional encyclopedias like encyclopedia Britannica.

The take away

Outsourcing discovered the concept of working on a global scale, open-sourcing the concept of working externally and crowdsourcing is discovering the concept of working socially. Best of all, crowdsourcing can also occur offline. Understanding crowdsourcing and how to effectively tap into both managed and unmanaged crowds in business can help you adopt more modern marketing strategies and ensure your business thrives in 2013 and beyond.

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