Expand Your Content and Audience Through Crowdsourcing

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By Sara Counihan

Wouldn’t it be great to know exactly what content your audience wants to see from you? Better yet, what if you could gather this information free of charge? According to Becca Bycott, digital director at American Association of University Women, it’s as simple as asking.

In her AM&P Annual Meeting session, “Crowdsourcing Campaigns: Empowering Online Communities to Be the Best Storytellers,” Bycott explained that crowdsourcing empowers a community to share ideas around a common theme and collectively tell a story in a powerful way.

It’s about inviting your communities to share their stories with you, and in turn, using those stories for your own communications purposes, Bycott said.

“When you crowdsource, you’re laying the groundwork for people to become stakeholders in your organization. They feel heard and seen and emotionally connected to what you’re doing,” she said.

Crowdsourcing is classic journalism, according to Bycott. It’s about finding good sources and getting their stories. It’s not just about creating social media content, she says. It can be content for magazines, e-newsletters, or the perfect anecdote for a speech.

Bycott outlined six benefits of crowdsourcing:

  • Know your audiences and what they’re saying

  • Cost-effective and cross-promotional

  • Creates emotional investment

  • Humanizes complex issues through everyday experiences

  • Gives you current, timely content to have in your back pocket

  • Is not just limited to digital

At AAUW, Bycott began crowdsourcing by asking the association’s social media followers simple questions, such as “What can employers offer moms to make their lives easier?” or “If you could negotiate for one thing (other than higher pay), what would you ask for?” She tagged each post “#AAUWAsks,” and eventually, the hashtag evolved from being a simple graphic to a monthly Twitter chat that AAUW summarized with a Twitter moment.

The information gathered can be extended past social media. The association’s senior writer wrote a story using content from a monthly Twitter chat and posted it on the association’s website. Bycott then shared the same feature on social media, tagging user’s responses that were mentioned in the article, creating even more content and traction.

So how does crowdsourcing work? Bycott provided four tips for organizations that want to get in on the crowdsourcing action.

  1. Know Who Your Fans Are Find out where they live on social media and how they communicate on the platforms. (e.g. What hashtags are they using?)

  2. Give People a Way to Add Their Story to Yours Heavily promote a hashtag to create and contribute to a bigger conversation everyone can join and share online.

  3. Use Their Story to Tell Your Own Retweet them with context (“quote tweet”). Repost their photo and add your key messaging to make it something new. Feature their story in something you create (e.g. Instagram post, video, GIF).

  4. Give Them A Shout Out! This inspires and encourages them to be your greatest fans.

Bycott mentioned some challenges with crowdsourcing, including copyright and privacy, receiving low-resolution imagery and video from respondents, and having enough tools and resources to actively participate in social media and maintain the channel’s voice. However, Bycott said the biggest challenge is getting crowdsourcing off the ground.

“The most important thing you should be is creatively nimble,” said Bycott. She also advises to continually beat the drum until it becomes a thing. It does take time she said, but the results are more than worth it.

Sara Counihan is content project manager for NACS. Association Media & Publishing thanks Sara for her stellar job covering this AM&P Annual Meeting session for our members who were unable to attend.