Crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, crowdsurfing. Just a load of words with ‘crowd’ stuck on the front?
Or are we ready to consider the B2B application of the crowd beyond abstract Kickstarter funding offers yet? It’s been a while since I mentioned crowdsourcing for B2B marketing. Crowdsourcing has been available to businesses in that time, just seemingly not very popular. Is that because it’s not considered relevant, or because it’s different, requires change and therefore carries a higher risk profile to B2B organisations? Maybe it’s just because imagination and creative thinking are still a bit of a struggle in B2B.
If there’s no immediate and obvious business application for a new tool, channel or platform, it’s easily dismissed as not part of the ‘approved content strategy’. But crowdsourcing is not new. It’s even been made accessible through our favourite B2B marketing channels. LinkedIn launched a polling feature as far back as 2011, and then withdrew it in 2015, “…to focus our resources on the best products.” In other words, because you didn’t use it.
The gap was promptly filled by Twitter launching its own polling feature later in 2015. You can still create Twitter polls, but do you? Have you ever? Is it part of ‘the plan’? Probably not. And yet, with only a slightly different perspective, what the hell, let’s call it, ‘creative thinking’, you can engage the crowd in all forms of brand marketing.
14 year-old Lucy Gavaghan, for example, recently collected 280,000 signatures on change.org and influenced Tesco to stop selling caged hen’s eggs. Whether you believe the chicken or the egg should come first, there’s no denying Lucy’s inspired use of the crowd to make her case.
I was giving my own daughter a lift to her local crack-den (or wherever it is that teenage daughters go these days…) and asked her for some headline ideas. Birddog’s next Brand on the Run® networking event is coming up (ask for your invitation here) and I needed some invitation headlines. I threw it out there on the off chance she might have a suggestion. Within 30 seconds she called out a line. Then another. Then more, and then more than I could keep up with.
“Hang on,” I said, “where are you getting all this from?” She looked at me with that furrowed, ‘Are you really that stupid…?’ look on her face and said, “Group Chat Dad. Obviously.” She paused for effect and then said, “Are you really that stupid…?”
She had her own crowdsourcing. Available, engaged, interested (even in my Brand on the Run invitation…) just waiting to offer thoughts, opinions, ideas, suggestions – on almost any subject they cared to dream up at almost any time of the day or night.
Naturally, we’ll beat it out of those meddling kids when we get them into full-time marketing employment. We’ll tell them to use email. And only on company approved devices. We’ll make them login to secure networks and monitor and enforce what they can and cannot say. We’ll ban ‘Group Chat’ and we’ll be surprised when the young talent leaves. Again.
I reflected on my daughter’s ability to instantly, ‘deliver’, from the crowd compared to the typical B2B experience, but consoled myself with the thought that, “It’s ok, you’ve got Twitter. You’ve got LinkedIn. You’ve got your own B2B social media crowd.” Except of course, you haven’t.
The Ledgling’s use of social is far closer to the future of business communications that we need, but it seems a lifetime away from actually happening. While Twitter continues, “its slow, inexorable slide into mediocrity and irrelevance,” you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re the only tools available, so you have to use them. But it doesn’t take much creative marketing to shift the outcomes from ordinary to extraordinary.
Or, he says, furrowing his brow like a teenager, are you really that stupid…?