Building engaged communities through crowdsourcing

Community building is now a pillar of branding. It is no longer enough to preach the value of a product to audiences; now, viable brands are built by sparking conversations with and among audience members. It makes sense; the more you can convince people to participate in conversations on or around your brand, the more opportunities you have to create natural brand evangelists.

Community building plays into people’s basic instinct to feel as though they belong to something. We, as humans, are pack animals; we do and feel our best when we are part of a group or movement. Although we do strive to be seen and appreciated as individuals, we do our best when we are part of something. A Slate article from 2013 referenced the altruistic properties of participation. The article went on to quote Bulgarian intellectual Elias Canetti: “It is only in a crowd that man can become free of his fear of being touched…All are equal there; no distinctions count, not even that of sex. The man pressed against him is the same as himself.”

The brands that prioritize community building give their followers a chance to co-mingle, exchange their ideas and experiences and, ultimately, feel as though they play integral roles in the dissemination of the brand’s products or services. When you create chances for audiences to insert themselves in the conversation, you make them feel as though they’re not just consuming your product or content, but they’re helping to create it — they’re participation is playing an active role in shaping the identity and culture of an organization.

Social media platforms give brands accessible avenues to infusing community building within their core marketing efforts. Many brands today go the extra mile to showcase crowdsources images of their customers using their products on their social feeds or run social contests in which participating in a branded dialogue elicits rewards. But some of the most creative brands today have even found ways to take their community-building efforts off of social and into their core customer offerings.

The Rise of Crowdsourcing Services

Thanks to the Uber-ization of our economy, it’s no longer stranger to receive brand services from individuals, rather than full-time employees. By creating business models steeped in individual participation, brands are not only contributing to the rise of the freelance economy, but they’re also producing natural brand evangelization.

Studypool is one organization that is taking this crowdsourcing formula and applying it to the education sphere. Through their crowd-sourced platform, students can ask for tutoring and homework help from one another. The community engagement benefits both tutor and student in this model in that tutors have the opportunity to receive payment for their help, and students can get answers to their questions almost instantly.

Studypool truly acts as a pool of infinite resources; one student can log in to ask a physics questions and subsequently, from his time perusing the platform, he may see questions posted that he knows he’s experienced enough to answer, as well. The same student can then sign up to the platform as a tutor and toggle between roles based on his and the community’s needs. By creating opportunities for individuals to thrive in more than one capacity, the platform is naturally paving new audience inroads because it is in the best interest for their community members to spread the word about the platform to either obtain more tutoring opportunities or aggregate even more qualified tutors in one, centralized location.

The Studypool approach effectively decentralizes education, which has long been an industry governed by centralized institutions from universities to public school districts. The success of Studypool’s crowdsourcing model proves two important lessons: learning is not a one size fits all process and students can be teachers and vice versa.

As exemplified by Studypool’s growth, the more any brand can find ways to encourage audience participation, the faster their engaged community will grow around them. Passionate community members create a ripple effect around one organization, which can reverberate further than a single splash from the organization itself. In these scenarios, one audience member tells another who tells another and so on. Additionally, with engagement crowdsourcing sitting at the cornerstone of a brand, new audiences feel more assured by the overall value and viability because the word is coming from another person, not just a corporate conglomerate.

In what ways is your brand working to build engaged communities? Have you employed crowdsourcing as a means to build brand evangelists? Share your insights in the comments.