By Lisa Cox

Social media continues to transform how consumers communicate with industries as it evolves into increasingly diverse forms of content production and discourse. Now the door has been opened for collective consumer action — crowdsourcing — to empower businesses to solve problems, develop products and solicit new ideas.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines crowdsourcing as “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, especially from an online community.” The Internet’s inherent anonymity allows for users to contribute in a setting without scrutiny over their input.

Such a setting is naturally comfortable and can foster honest opinions on the activity the crowdsourced initiative concerns, whether it’s selecting successful talent for a TV show or choosing a new flavour for chips. This is why it is commonplace for people to consult consumer reviews before making a significant purchase — we naturally trust the posted views of our fellow shoppers — and in turn why communal appraisal is a reliable assessment of public interest.

Traditionally, determining an item’s usability would be entrusted to formally appointed industry leaders or focus groups, a myopic form of creating product demand that is becoming obsolete. By comparison, outsourcing product development draws a proportional amount of brand loyalty given that consumer-initiated solutions and ideas lend credibility and goodwill to businesses. Customers love businesses that walk the walk and truly put their customers first, after all.

Crowdsourcing continues to evolve to include unconventional venues, such as health maintenance organizations for community needs assessments, law enforcement agencies to solve crimes and even politicians to survey the political landscape of their jurisdictions.

What does this mean for public relations? Analytics from crowdsource audiences can be measured by organizations to forecast an overhaul of what target audiences want. Crowdsourcing, as explained above, also provides an additional avenue for reaching the public and creative ways to instantaneously tell one’s stories.


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