When an organization casts its net globally in the hopes of discovering new talent, finding solutions to pressing problems, or assembling a world-wide team to help accomplish a mission, the “crowd” of participants who answer the call essentially form a community, which has grown up in response to a common goal.
Crowdsourcing in this way can lead to unexpected benefits and dramatic results. But the overall success of such an enterprise depends on the extent to which the members of this new community are invested in the work they’re doing. Their efforts have to be sustained, and focused on the core principles of the task at hand.
One key to ensuring this is by actively providing the stimulus and incentives for members of the crowd community to want to participate – and providing resources and platforms for them to interact and communicate with the host organization, and each other. This helps sustain their interest, and keep them engaged.
The Nature of Engagement
Community engagement experts at Australia’s Bang TheTable.com describe the phenomenon as both a process and an outcome, with the involvement of a community of contributors an essential part of some missions (e.g. in an educational outreach program), and the active participation of community members being an achievement in itself, for others (such as in a communications or service delivery to remote regions).
So engagement wears a different face, in different situations. And the measures which may be taken to engage the members of a community may vary, from niche to niche.
Engaging for Support and Service Delivery
Mila has a mission to assemble crowd communities for the delivery of expertise and technical support in customer service provision. Though partnerships with industry leaders such as Swisscom and Vodafone give access to valuable resources and technical knowledge, for a sustained and truly global spread of support services, the organization has to call upon a wider field of inputs, from individuals and organizations of all scales, and at all levels.
The crowd communities that result are unique and varied – and a number of methods must be employed, to encourage and sustain the active participation of their members.
Dialogue, Data, Decisions
If you’re looking to a crowd for help in solving other people’s problems, it’s important to give potential contributors all the information they’ll need, and access to the channels of communication they’ll require to respond to what’s sure to be the diverse range of issues that they’ll encounter as consumers turn to Help desks and Technical Support services, for assistance.
That means online and mobile access to databases, knowledge banks, trade literature, blogs, product reviews, and industry-specific discussion boards.
Forums should be provided for your crowd community members as well, so they can dialogue and interact with each other, brainstorm, “group think”, collaborate, test out possible solutions, decide on strategies individually or by consensus, and trade ideas.
Asking for Help
For a particular niche activity, you’ll be looking for contributors with a particular skill-set, mind-set, or background. So it makes sense to send out specific calls for assistance to people who possess these qualities. In the case of service crowds such as those assembled by Mila, participation may be sought from areas like:
- Existing online forums and communities hosted by telecoms companies
- People currently working in the telecoms industry, or former employees
- Technology and related groups on social media
- Students at universities of technology and other scientific institutions
- Existing telecoms customers (approaches may be in person, or via email and other channels)
People appreciate being thanked or rewarded for participating in an activity; it’s human nature. And introducing an aspect of incentive or reward for contributing to the work of your crowd community may also serve to sustain the participants’ interest in their work – especially if the incentive scheme is presented in a fun and interesting way.
Put your game-playing head on, and consider the award of badges, certificates, merit points, and actual prizes. Reward frequent or noteworthy specialist contributors with a special rank, or designation within the community. Give points for attending social events and webinars organized for the community. Highlight people’s achievements on their user profiles. And so on.
Crafting Your Messages
Today’s communication technologies give an organization plenty of options in crafting messages for the people they directly and indirectly employ: email, newsletters, Instant Chat, SMS text messaging, the emoji. Use these resources to spread the word about the community that you’ve built.
And give your crowd community members the resources they need to keep the conversation going with you – and amongst themselves.
Joining the Social Conversation
Take advantage of the social media platforms of which you are a part, to extend your reach. Post intriguing questions on, Twitter, et al, inviting solutions to vexing problems. Use surveys, ratings systems, and the comments sections of discussions and posts to invite feedback and fresh ideas.
Going Beyond the Digital
And remember that, despite its global reach, there is a solid world of three dimensions, beyond the Internet. Real-time gatherings, one-on-one interactions, social events, and actual conversations are all valid forums for sustaining the contacts between members of your community – and can serve as settings for attracting in new contributors.