The year 2011 will go down as one of the most eventful years in history, to say the least. Technological advancements that allowed people to communicate more easily combined with a noticeable shift in public thinking, which resulted in citizens of many countries collaborating to change their lives. From the West of Africa (Ivory Coast) to the North (Egypt), everyday people used Twitter and Facebook to help unseat rulers who had overstayed their welcome. Ironically, a bipartisan approach was the highlight. Egypt’s Wael Ghonim took leave from his marketing executive duties at Google in order to concentrate on spearheading what ended up being Egypt’s historic Tahrir Square protests, which he launched thanks to creating an event on Facebook. The crowd was heard loud and clear this year.
After having seen the power of social media and crowdsourcing manifested so powerfully, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed. The question becomes: what’s a practical definition of crowdsourcing? According to Jason Falls, author and acclaimed CEO of Social Media Explorer, it isn’t overly complex. “Crowdsourcing is simply asking a group of people to contribute. You can crowdsource content by asking your social media network to share videos or crowdsource decision-making by asking customers poll questions,” said Falls.
Social media has proven to be extremely popular among the global young crowd. In fact, this demographic is even helping prominent companies make important decisions. Mindfire, the first crowdsourcing site created by international public relations firm Ketchum, connects its clients with 350 international, digital-savvy university students around the world. “For Mindfire, Ketchum recognized the potential in adapting the crowdsourcing concept to meet a key need for our clients: creative ideas. Their creative contributions have sparked inspiration for clients like Hertz,” said Brian Keenan, Creative Project Leader on Ketchum’s Open Innovation team. This exchange becomes a win-win: clients gain ideas and exemplary students are subsequently rewarded by Ketchum with career opportunities.
When analyzing a novelty, it is important to avoid having a naïve perspective. Accordingly, both the good and bad side of the crowd were honestly reviewed at the November 16 edition of Mindshare LA, a monthly Los Angeles event that is often compared to TED Talks and is what I like to call “funtellectual.” Standing on the mezzanine floor of the historic Alexandria Hotel in downtown LA, Mindshare LA Co-Founder and Creator Douglas Campbell started off by pointing out our world crowd’s size. “When President John F. Kennedy was alive, there were half as many of the 7 billion people now on our planet,” said Campbell.
His speech segued perfectly into a presentation by Dana Mauriello, President and Co-Founder of ProFounder, a crowd-funding platform startup that helps entrepreneurs attain investment capital. During an era where people are prone to only spend on products they trust, ProFounder has found its niche as a “crowd-powered business,” according to Mauriello. “A crowd supports someone’s business passively through ‘Liking’ them on Facebook or through financial means. When the community the business belongs to invests money, it makes the business owners more accountable since they actually know the people who helped them launch,” said Mauriello. She also explained that the U.S. Congress’s near-unanimous decision to pass a President Obama-endorsed crowdfunding bill will aid American entrepreneurs drastically.
Community remained the focus when Cultural Connections Founder Francis DellaVecchia took the stage. Thanks to relevant examples, he effectively informed the audience that crowdsourcing isn’t about popularity. “Just do your part. The Occupy movement was a meme that bubbled to the top, but nobody knows who created it. The point is, we need to act on ideas: sometimes they catch on,” said DellaVecchia.
Lastly, the negative aspect of the crowd was examined by Kevin Reeve, Founder of onPoint Tactical Tracking School and star of The History Channel’s series Off The Grid. “It is always easier to avoid a disaster than react to it,” explained Reeve while explaining how a crowd can turn into a mob. Real-life advice applicable to the digital universe, where one mistake can lead to once-supportive commentators publicly sending negative comments to companies on Twitter.
Elias Kamal Jabbe is a Los Angeles-based Journalist and PR Specialist and the Founder of Multicultural Matters, an online media outlet focused on multiculturalism and international entrepreneurship. Feel free to connect with him via LinkedIn or Twitter.com/Elias213 for more information.
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