Want to get started with a crowdsourcing project, but feeling a little stuck? The hardest part is starting, so let this guide provide an outline for the essentials you will need to ensure a good time. Here's a checklist of the things you need before launching your crowdsourcing project.

Rough Draft

The story of your crowdsourcing project is by far the essential component. The key to cultivating the crowd so essential to crowdsourcing is to make a meaningful, emotional appeal. As Simon Sinek famously said, “start with why.” Indeed, there is a cash prize incentive for the best solution, but -- and this may surprise you -- that is not the most powerful draw. People want to know, above all, what should compel them to this cause. After all, don’t we all want to feel like our efforts are spent toward a worthy purpose? In fact, in drafting the narrative of a crowdsourcing competition, it is a good idea for the sponsor to look inward and ask themselves why their problem is deserving of the attention they seek. Here are some good prompts to get some deep thinking going.

  • How many people will this solution help, and in what group is the need for it greatest?
  • In what ways will this solution enhance the environment, personal health, quality of life, scientific understanding, or government? How?
  • If this is a business solution, what kind of economic impact might it have?
  • What drew you, personally, to sponsor a crowdsourcing project on this subject?

Team Building

Teamwork does make the dream work. No successful crowdsourcing project was the result of one person, and never will be (because...it would not be crowdsourcing.) However, more to the point: project sponsors need a reliable support team. It does not have to be huge.  An idea team is just enough people to with diverse enough strengths that they can maintain forward momentum to the end of the crowdsourcing project. Follow-through is critical, and often dependent upon having the right heads together.

Above all, a crowd-sourcing team needs to have crystal clear communication with both each other and crowd, as well as a shared passion for the project. Beyond those must-haves, you can count technical knowledge of the subject area, marketing prowess, and curation of good ideas as some of the more relevant skill sets to a crowdsourcing project management team.

Social Media Presence

An effective social media presence can be worth its weight in gold. To that, you should’ve started building a social media strategy for your project yesterday. However, don’t fret; if you have not had the time to organically build a new community and interact with existing ones, social media ads work great: cheap, easy to use, and usually measured for you. If you do pursue more “DIY” avenues of social media, just be sure to keep a tight watch on metrics. It is easy to spend hundreds of hours writing and replying to tweets, developing your facebook followers and deploying an Instagram campaign -- only to be left with low engagement and a pretty bleak ROI. Don’t fall into that trap.

One of your better strategies is to find existing communities with a vested interest in your crowdsourcing project’s subject matter and begin having genuine interactions with them. Remember, it is natural for people to be skeptical. Most internet offers of “cash prizes” or some monetary reward are at best a marketing scheme and at worst a scam. Let people get used to the idea that you are trying to do something real, and don’t be too pushy!

Email List

Email has proven itself to be one of the most effective ways to get your idea out there.  That being said, when building lists or cold-emailing people, act wisely. No one likes a spammer, so keep relevance, opt-in, and the ability to opt-out in mind as you begin to explore the world of email list-building. Don’t forget your email checklist:

  • Keep template emails that can (and should) be easily customized
  • Use the Gmail “canned response” trick for sending the same email repeatedly
  • Utilize clear, direct language about your crowdsourcing project and why it is relevant
  • Always follow-up promptly
  • Try a variety of different subject lines and see what works best

Incentive Prize

One of the more challenging aspects of the crowdsourcing or open innovation model is determining the appropriate prize amount for the winning solution. To make it simple, the prize amount should reflect several things about the crowdsourcing project:

  • Presumed time investment to create the solution
  • Existing background knowledge required to understand the problem
  • The resulting IP agreement - will the winner(s) continue to receive royalties from this?
  • Implementation of the prize - will the result be freely distributed as open-source, donated to a charity, or used to create revenue?
  • Added value or comparable market value of the solution by itself?

You can check out this blog post that goes into much more detail on the art of assigning prize amounts.

Engage Community
Once you have dedicated time and effort to creating a story, assembling a team, and building a crowd for your crowdsourcing project, it is imperative that you keep the momentum going. Communicate directly with your crowd, and encourage collaboration. Beyond a continual messaging strategy through email or an automated platform system like that of HeroX.com, you might want to share relevant information and news stories with your community, as well as compelling biographies of current competitors, etc. This constant contact keeps the group feeling like things are happening, especially during long stretches between the beginning and close of a submission phase. Public voting is another great way to garner attention and create excitement within your community.

After all this -- still think you can handle it? A crowdsourcing project is a big commitment, and it helps to have somebody with experience on your side. So if you have got the vision, but need some help with...the other stuff...try HeroX and the crowdsourcing services we provide: both supported by real people and those built right into the platform!