Why aren't more brands using Facebook to tap consumers for new ideas? Facebook is usually managed by the marketing team, but crowdsourcing initiatives, which provide a window into consumers' minds, are typically run by the R&D team.
Open innovation projects like Procter & Gamble's Connect Develop and Starbucks' My Starbucks Idea have done a great job publicizing how R&D teams can benefit from crowdsourcing consumer insight. As a result, most marketers don't realize that the value of crowdsourcing goes beyond the innovative ideas consumers provide.
Though not well publicized, crowdsourcing projects can deliver important marketing results. For example, Bill Johnston, Dell's Director of Global Community, reveals that consumers who contribute ideas to IdeaStorm, Dell's online portal for consumer ideas, will spend more money and make more purchases than consumers who don't contribute to IdeaStorm.
In addition, research has shown that crowdsourcing with consumers can result in greater customer satisfaction, and can increase positive word of mouth by participants.
With concrete evidence that crowdsourcing can drive revenue, increase satisfaction and build brand advocates, there's no question that marketers should have a stake in crowdsourcing initiatives. But for marketers to reap the full benefits of crowdsourcing, a simple yet important change needs to be made in our execution of crowdsourcing.
Right now, private online communities make up the majority of crowdsourcing initiatives. While these closed communities can certainly provide benefit for marketers, transferring crowdsourcing initiatives to Facebook can amplify the positive results.
Why? For marketers, the real value from crowdsourcing stems from the act of giving consumers a voice. This becomes more meaningful when you give consumers a public podium, rather than a private community, to express themselves. Sheryl Sandberg spoke about this in her recent keynote at the Facebook Marketing Conference when she said, "The same way people expect their friends to hear them, they get the opportunity to connect directly with their friends, people don't expect to be talked at anymore. They want to be a full part of the conversation. Today we just can't just talk, we need to listen as well, and that means for marketers too."
While few marketers disagree with Sheryl's point, most are still struggling to build two-way relationships with consumers over Facebook. In fact, the results of a recent Ehrenberg-Bass Institute study showed that less than 1% of fans of the biggest brands on Facebook engage in meaningful activity, like shares and comments. But with crowdsourcing's proven ability to build relationships with consumers and deliver positive marketing results, is crowsourcing on Facebook the secret recipe to social media success? I argue, yes.
The few companies that have figured this out are already seeing promising results. Last summer Dunkin' Donuts ran a "Keep it Coolatta 2: Flavor Boogaloo" campaign on Facebook where they asked fans to suggest songs that remind them of Coolattas and the summer. By engaging their consumers through this month-long campaign, Dunkin' Donuts gained 300,000 Facebook fans.
Facebook provides an opportunity for brands to build a personal, authentic relationship with consumers, but not all Facebook activities help achieve this. The marketers who realize the potential of crowdsourcing to build a network of powerful, engaged consumers on Facebook will jump ahead in the race to figuring out social media. There's a bright future for marketers who show consumers their voice matters.