How To Exploit The Power Of Crowds

Crowd Factory CEO Sanjay Dholakia explains how to apply and measure social interactions across all marketing channels.
10 Crowdsourcing Success Stories
Slideshow: 10 Crowdsourcing Success Stories
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Dholakia argued it's time to "stop thinking about all those prior categories that presume social as a new channel and instead start thinking about social as a new medium that lays across all channels. That SEO channel of yours, that email channel of yours, that display advertising channel of yours, and, certainly, that Facebook channel of yours--you should lay on top of every one of those a social boost, a social amplification. If you're paying Google a dollar a click to bring Sanjay in, why wouldn't you give Sanjay an opportunity to go out and bring 'x' number of his friends back to the page. Say he brings four people to that page. That dollar, then, just turned into 25 cents per person that came back."

Regarding his math, I asked if the benefit would not be offset by the cost of the coupons and other promotions a business uses to encourage social sharing. "Sometimes, but not always," he said. As part of the launch of Windows 7, Microsoft created a campaign that drove people to a page where they were asked to vote on the best videos and, after casting their vote, to post a link to the contest to their social networks. "It was just, hey, that's terrific--now remind your friends to vote. That was it. No give, no get," he said, but people were still motivated to share because, having cast a vote, they had made an emotional investment in seeing their choice win.

Other campaigns take advantage of emotions like altruism. Textbook rental specialist Bookrenter built a campaign around giving away a scholarship, and every time someone shared a link to the site it would add $1 to the value of the scholarship. "There's no direct benefit to me to take that action, but I want whoever wins this scholarship to get the most money possible," Dholakia said.

For Practice Fusion, a maker of electronic medical records software, the social insight was simply that "doctors are our customers [and] they tend to hang out with other customers. If we can just get them to hang out [and] tell our story, that's got to be good for us," he said.

Awareness of the need for something like the Crowd Factory platform is growing because many companies are no longer relying on a team of 22-year-old Facebook enthusiasts to define their strategy, which is instead being elevated into the role for a senior digital marketing executive, Dholakia said. Marketers intuitively sense that there ought to be more concrete ways for them to exploit social media, but they are not sure how to go about it, he said.

Something similar happened a decade ago with the advent of search. Many people intuitively sensed that aligning their marketing with what consumers were searching for had to be a good thing, but at first they were unsure how to go about it, Dholakia said. They didn't know how to put it into their budgets or how to measure the results, he said.

"No disrespect to the engineers at Google, but the genius was not the algorithm. The genius was AdWords. That's what gave marketers a way to spend against search and see exactly what was coming back, because they controlled the dials," Dholakia said. "Moving forward another 10 years, we have another massive change in Web behavior called social." Again, marketers understand that if they are selling cars, and people on social networks are talking about cars, they ought to figure out how to connect with those people, he said. And they want to be able to track those efforts right through to the conversion of marketing to sales.

"But, they're saying, I don't know how to do that," Dholakia said. "And my punchline is always, until Crowd Factory came along."

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