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Crowdsourcing: Friend or Foe to the B2B Service Industry?

B2B Marketing

Due to both recent economically troubled times along with the rise in use of social media networking, professionals are turning to their Crowdsourcing: Friend or Foe to the B2B Service Industry? image blogpostcrowdsourcingimagenetworks for information and ideas.  Is this a new trend bound to bring creativity and ideas to the masses, or a blow to the businesses and individuals out there trying to make a profit?

Crowdsourcing: What’s the big idea?

Crowdsourcing can be practiced in a wide variety of areas and contexts.  In a nutshell, crowdsourcing includes questions, problems and even resources that are broadcast to a large number of people with varying forms of expertise for input.  People in different industries with different talents reply or gather to create a solution.   With an increasing complexity of both problems and solutions upon us, there has been a rise in mass collaboration from individuals trying to help each other. 

A Few Examples

Quora

  • Quora is described as a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited and organized by everyone who uses it.  The overall goal is to have each question page become the best possible resource for anyone who wants to know about that question. 

iStock Photo

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  • iStock began as a free image sharing exchange used by graphic designers.  It is now a marketplace for amateur photographers to post their work.  With prices as low as $1-$5 for images, these suppliers are not interested in making a six-figure salary, but rather just getting that little extra cut from some basic work. 

Jigsaw

  • Jigsaw is a community created database that consists of 16 million business contacts.  Individuals add business contacts to the database so they can earn points and receive access to contacts entered by others.  Jigsaw then sells the data to companies, creating a generous amount of revenue. 

The Debate

As mentioned in the beginning of this post, crowdsourcing originally seemed to grow when the economy dropped.  Professionals today try to find quick fixes that are easier to come by and cost less.  In essence, we want to do more with less.  And can you blame us?  However, crowdsourcing can be seen in many different lights with conflicting opinions.  Let’s take a look.

  • The Good: Crowdsourcing can be a creative and more efficient way of getting things done.   We look to an easily found and well known database to give us the answer we need, and quick.  A great article that from the Bloomburg Businessweek points out the positive aspects of crowdsourcing: It allows contributors to sharpen their skills, continue to be involved with the things they love to do and also helps them get noticed.  It is an opportunity to stand out based on merit, knowledge and ideas rather than just on a person’s title or position.  Basically, it allows us to spread our creativity across a larger network.  And let’s face it, we’re all looking for ways to be more efficient and creative and help us save time and money.
  • The Bad:  So what’s the downfall of crowdsourcing?  Some believe having these types of databases at our disposal leads us to be lazy in terms of doing the actual research or work ourselves.  Danny Brown makes a good point in his post, Is Social Media Crowd Sourcing Making us Lazy? by stating, “Whatever happened to good old-fashioned research? Taking the time to satisfy our curiosity by looking up information ourselves? Have we really got to the stage where we’re so dependent on others that we’re collectively wasting our intelligence?”  These databases are a great and efficient way to find an answer in a time crunch or when looking for opinion, but as he states, “Just because something is there doesn’t mean it needs to always be used.”
  • The Ugly:  So what is said to be the worst part about crowdsourcing?  Some see the idea of using the public as resource, as the demise of service/knowledge based businesses due to the downward pressure on prices.  The cost barriers that once separated amateurs from professionals has now been broken down; anyone and everyone who thinks they know a bit about a topic is allowed to have a voice on these sites.  People who practice interests as hobbies or part-time are now finding a market for their services, and certain fields are becoming less scarce.  The spotlight is being put on the “crowd” rather than the true expert.  Dan Woods states in his article, The Myth About Crowdsourcing, “… misplaced faith in the crowd is a blow to the image of the heroic inventor.   A false idea of the crowd reduces the motivation for this investment, with the supposition that companies can tap the minds of inventors on the cheap…I like the term virtuoso search better. Whatever term we use, let’s not call it crowdsourcing and pretend that 10,000 average Joes invent better products than Steve Jobs.” 

Whatever way you want to look at it, crowdsourcing has been on the rise, and seems like it will be here for a while.  We want to know; do you currently use any forms of crowdsourcing?  In what types of situations will you look to crowdsourcing for an answer?  Please share your thoughts and opinions!

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