Through social media platforms, we have access to large crowds. The question is: how do you reach and utilize the crowd members?

Jeff Howe coined the term ‘crowdsourcing’ in 2006 as, “the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated employee and outsourcing to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.” While crowdsourcing can indeed be of use to any company or freelancer, it is important to note that this tactic is especially useful for small business owners.

As specialized platforms, services and features are built to tend to the diverse needs of companies, it becomes easier for the little guys to reach the crowd through specialized sites. Here are several ways to make the most of crowdsourcing:

1. Product Development, Ideas and Brainstorming

Crowdsourcing can help you determine what the public thinks of your product and ideas. You can involve potential customers in the process of developing a new product or service, showing them your aim is to meet their needs. Crowdsourcing serves your ‘Customer Relationship Management’ purposes as much as it does your ‘Marketing and Product Development.’

The biggest problem for small businesses is their “crowd” is not yet developed. Since reaching a crowd is the main issue with crowdsourcing for small businesses, it is best to first start on platforms that have existing crowds – and are not yet overcrowded.

Two examples of brainstorming platforms are ideavibes and Atizo. In these places, you can find inspiration for new products and solutions.

2. Micro-tasking

Especially in small businesses, the situation often arises where there is not the employment capacity to complete tedious (albeit important) tasks. In this case, use a platform specializing in posting tasks. Try Amazon Mechanical Turk or Clickworker to post tasks and put the crowd to work. Typical tasks for these platforms are sorting, researching, translating or writing small texts. Most of the tasks on these platforms are small, but posted in large numbers; crowd-workers are paid by the number they fulfill.

3. Outsourcing

For assignments in which a smaller business might not have the specialized knowledge or skill set, there are (again) platforms to find the right person.

For new designs (logos, flyers or business cards), post the task to a design platform, such as 99Designs or Design Crowd. On these platforms, the task is set at a fixed price and designers submit suggestions. Should you post the need for a design, you are able to give feedback on those submitted to get better results. In the end, you choose the desired submission and close the deal on the platform.

There are also platforms to find freelancers for diverse tasks. Besides tapping into a platform of creative people from whom to choose from, your cost is often less than that of going through a private firm.

4. Innovation Platforms:

If you wish to get in contact with people on a deeper level, use a project-board geared toward professional networking. Crowdsourcing through a network of people whom you are already familiar, while having access to their professional profiles and industry knowledge, inspires collaboration with those you feel certain are right for the job. An example of such site is exploreB2B.

For specific solutions deeper than a Q&A, try Innocentive or Hypios. There, ‘solvers’ try to give an answer for a set price on the platform. The posted questions are challenging and usually not at hand. Accordingly, the prices can reach fairly impressive sums. If one person does not find the answer, the solvers may find online project rooms were they work together.

5. Crowdfunding:

Crowds can also be used to fund projects. Platforms such as indiegogo give the opportunity to gather money from the crowd. Think carefully about the kind of project you want the crowd to fund and the story you will use to entice them.

The point? There are many opportunities for small companies to gain influence through the crowd. If you have a task or a question you want to put to the crowd, there are a multitude of ways to reach them. Don’t be afraid use the aforementioned sites to tap into the crowd’s potential for the use of your small business.

Read more: Getting Noticed: SEO, WOM, and Crowdsourcing