Crowdsourcing: The Most Unusual Uses & Success Stories

| By Editorial Staff

Whenever a crowd gathers, the potential for something peculiar – yet equally fantastic – seems to brew thicker. In the modern-day virtual world, crowds no longer need to gather in the same location in order to make an impact. Thanks to the popularity and success of online crowdsourcing, large groups of people can have their say and dictate fates, all from the comfort of their homes.

Group by Zardra -- Deviant Art

What is crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing involves tapping into the resources, skill sets, and intelligence of the public in order to reach a goal or milestone. Crowdfunding sites, such as Kickstarter, have helped to bring the idea of public support to the national spotlight. Movies such as “Veronica Mars,” raised more than $5 million on Kickstarter. The theory behind the “Veronica Mars” project was, if you want this movie bad enough, put up the money to make it happen.

And it worked. And it continues to work with endless projects, from films to business ventures.

But crowdfunding and crowdsourcing (while annoyingly similar in wording) are different. Crowdfunding focuses solely on tapping into the coffers of the general public. Crowdsourcing, on the other hand, asks the public to contribute more than just cold, hard cash. Here are some of the most successful and unusual uses of crowdsourcing.

The versatile acoustic guitar

Musicians might use sites like Soundcloud, or Bandcamp, to raise awareness of their music. In 2012, the 5-piece rock band, Walk off the Earth, released a YouTube video, where they covered the popular song “Somebody That I Used to Know,” by Gotye. The fact that they covered the song probably wouldn’t have garnered many hits. The fact that all five of them played the entire song – drums, bass, lead and rhythm – from one acoustic guitar, simultaneously, caught the country by storm. The video went viral within a few days. The result? The band landed an appearance and performance on Ellen (a show that’s aired to millions of viewers). Since then they’ve seen radio airplay for their original music, and have been touring essentially non-stop throughout North America. The lesson: be creative in your approach, and people will notice.

The 21st century version of flashing your high beams

We’ve all done it – flashed our high beams at oncoming traffic to warn others of a police cruiser parked somewhere. Some of us see it as our civil duty. But crowdsourcing has made it possible for us to keep our fellow speeders in check through a simple app, called Waze.

Waze would not exist if it weren’t for its users. Drivers are able to open the app (which tracks your location via GPS) and be notified of upcoming traffic jams, speed traps and more. The app is built around an ever-growing community of drivers who constantly update and contribute to the data. As easy as it is to check to see if a cop is up ahead, equally as easy is it to push a button to let others know that the cop is still there. If Waze tells you a traffic jam is ahead, but you realize it’s cleared out, you can do your part by updating the information for other drivers to benefit from. Using a brilliant business model, Waze will grow even more effective as it wins over more users. More users means more spot checkers, which in turn means more accurate data. The lesson: designing a crowdsourcing venture that actually benefits the user is a sure bet.

You and I, the Science Guy?

If you ever dreamt of being a scientist or astronaut, your dream isn’t that far out of reach. Citizen Science (also known as crowd science, or networked science), is a type of science research that’s conducted by not-so-science-like people. Amateurs and nonprofessionals are relied on – by actual scientists – to help collect and analyze data. One such example is Galaxy Zoo. Galaxy Zoo is a site dedicated to everything out of this world, and all of it comes to your computer screen courtesy of the work of volunteers and amateurs. Crowdsourcing has helped alleviate some of the workload that full-fledged scientists are often buried under, so that they can focus on what they do best … whatever that is. The lesson: we all want to feel validated, and are eager to volunteer if the opportunity arises.

It takes a village to raise … a business?

Today’s business owner has to think outside the box in terms of finding support for his idea. Many of today’s entrepreneurs like the idea of social media, but aren’t entirely sure how to use it to their potential.

Looking at social media, and other forms of crowd-gathering sites, as a potential for crowdsourcing could help you to discover the wealth buried within these platforms. Take, for example, your ever-growing list of customer support tickets. Many businesses eat up a ton of time and resources answering these questions (which is important, of course). But what if you were to set up a GetSatisfaction page instead? GetSatisfaction allows users (your customers) to answer each other’s questions. Rather than monitor every ticket that comes into your inbox, guide your customers towards your GetSatisfaction page first. If they don’t find the answer among your other customers, then they can turn to you for support.

The point is there are endless examples of how businesses can use crowdsourcing to their advantage. Yet, there are also endless ways that haven’t been employed yet. Each business is unique, and the versatility of crowdsourcing allows your company to use it anyway you wish. Next time you’re in the need of a little help or support, consider gathering a crowd to do the work for you.