Recently, Jarett Wieselman from Netflix sent out the following tweet asking people what they mean when they say “Netflix didn’t promote the (cancelled) show”.

Thousands of people responded with their opinions and gave suggestions on how the streaming platform can better promote shows.

This is an example of social media crowdsourcing in action.

Not only did the company learn what its customers expected, it also gained some brilliant promotion ideas.

When used correctly, social media crowdsourcing can be a powerful customer research tool. It can provide you with valuable insights on how to optimize various aspects of your business – from marketing and sales to customer service.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can use crowdsourcing for your business.

What is crowdsourcing?

First of all, what is crowdsourcing really?

Simply put, it is the process of collecting ideas, services, and/or content with the help of contributions from a large number of people. The “crowd” in crowdsourcing typically refers to third-party entities that are unrelated to the business that’s conducting it.

In other words, you ask people for ideas and opinions on a particular topic and use that information to feed your product development, customer service, and marketing campaigns. With the large amount of ways to tap into the wisdom of the crowd online, other forms of crowdsourcing like crowdfunding have continued to build the relevance of collective opinions and efforts.

How social media crowdsourcing adds value

When done right, social media crowdsourcing can provide valuable insights about your customers and how they feel about your business. You can use it to identify opportunities for improving your performance.

Here are a few major ways in which social media crowdsourcing adds value for your business.

1. Gain a better understanding of your customers

Crowdsourcing on social media is hands down the most effective way to know your customers better.

Sure you can look at your analytics data to study customer behavior and preferences, but asking them directly provides unique insights and context. You’ll be able to get specific quotes that help put a story behind how users interact with your offerings, and what their needs are that you still haven’t met.

Learn how to ask for feedback from customers so you can understand how they feel about your business, your products, your service or even your campaigns. You can also collect feedback to understand their interests, buying behavior, expectations, content preferences, pain points and more.

Enterprise.nxt, for instance, created a Twitter poll to understand how its followers manage their passwords. It even threw in a handy guide to creating more secure passwords so that they provide value to their audience while getting a better feel for an aspect of their behavior.

2. Improve your product or service

Customer feedback on social media can also help you identify problems in your product or service that you should address.

You’ll be able to hear about improvement opportunities straight from the end users. Since they come in direct contact with your product regularly, they are the best people to point out what needs fixing to build a better product.

An advantage of reaching out to your social media audience is that the group that will respond are typically some of your most engaged followers and users. They can serve as a focus group that knows your brand in detail and is motivated to help you improve them so they can benefit as customers  too.

While you can create polls and ask questions, that’s not the only way to collect product improvement feedback. Look at the comments on your posts, direct messages and reviews on your social media pages.

For instance, the following screenshot shows how Pact could potentially identify a product improvement opportunity from a customer’s comment on its Facebook post.

customer comment on Pact Facebook post

Sprout Social’s social media engagement tools can help you streamline all of this. You’ll be able to manage reviews and filter the most relevant messages for your crowdsourcing efforts.

reply in Sprout's smart inbox

Further, you can dig into greater depth beyond brand mentions to see what people are saying about your brand and products using the social media listening tools from Sprout. Listening lets you set up more complex queries and dig into data from ongoing social conversations, expanding your reach beyond the users who engage specifically with crowdsourcing efforts.

3. Optimize your social media customer service

Social media crowdsourcing goes hand in hand with the customer feedback you receive through social customer service as well. Every new review, every new interaction can provide vital information on how to improve your service.

If you’re seeing recurring issues with your product or service, such as many customers experiencing shipping issues, you can start to diagnose problems affecting your business and improve. For many growing brands, a key issue can be the bandwidth of your service team itself. Maybe your team isn’t responsive enough or your limited availability is inconvenient to your customers.

You can then use these insights to develop a set of best practices for social media customer service that your team should follow. You can also use it to enhance your existing protocol and deliver an even better experience by expanding your customer service efforts.

Netflix even set up a separate Twitter account to collect and streamline all their customer service inquiries. They provide updates on streaming issues and respond to customer queries in multiple languages. This is a great idea when brands have high volumes of customer service-related queries that can’t be easily handled on the main account.

4. Assess performance

Social media crowdsourcing is also a valuable performance assessment tool. While analytics data tells you almost everything you need to know about your performance, there’s one aspect of your performance that it can’t always measure. And that’s people’s sentiments and opinions.

It could be about a new product, a certain marketing campaign, an event or even a new piece of content. If you’re going to get a 360-degree view of its performance, you need to learn how to ask for feedback from customers about it.

For instance, you may see a lot of engagement on your social post. But that’s not necessarily positive. People may be leaving negative comments or sharing it for all the wrong reasons. Crowdsourcing customer comments and feedback helps you gain a more complete picture of how your campaigns and your overall business decisions as a brand are faring.

How to conduct social media crowdsourcing

Now that you understand how social media crowdsourcing adds value to your business, you need to learn how to conduct it. This is where it gets a bit tricky. As the name suggests, crowdsourcing involves sourcing information from the crowd. So you may end up with hundreds of thousands of people sharing their insights and opinions.

When there’s too much information to sort through, it can be extremely challenging and time-consuming to turn it into actionable insights. This makes it crucial to learn how to ask for feedback from customers in a more organized fashion. Here are a few tips to help you do just that:

1. Define your goals/expectations

Some customers may give suggestions on how to improve your product, while others may have complaints about your customer service. With all kinds of information for different purposes, it can get messy and confusing.

And unless you have a clear idea of exactly what you’re looking for, it’s a bit difficult to understand what to do with the information you have collected.

This is why you should start your social media crowdsourcing efforts by defining your goals or expectations. What do you want to gain out of this? Maybe you want to improve customer service or you want to look for opportunities to improve your product. Or perhaps you want to discover your customers’ interests so you can use them in your promotional campaigns.

Whatever the purpose of your crowdsourcing effort is, make sure it is clearly defined from the start. You may even run several efforts simultaneously with different end goals, just make sure the purpose and goals of each one is defined.

For instance, you could crowdsource for ideas on how to promote an upcoming product and set a deadline for it. At the same time, you could have an always-on effort to improve your social media customer service. These will have different cadences in terms of when you collect, analyze and develop takeaways and insights.

2. Choose the right tactics and channels

There are several ways to collect customer feedback on social media. You could:

  • Conduct polls on social media
  • Browse through comments
  • Monitor your DMs
  • Send out survey links
  • Have people mention you in their posts
  • Monitor un-tagged mentions

Make sure you use channels that your customers use frequently so you have a better chance of collecting sufficient information.

Denny’s, for instance, created a series of Instagram polls to find out which of its sauces are most popular among customers. This is a fun and visual way to engage your fans while finding more information about their preferences.

Instagram poll from Denny's Diner

3. Have a dedicated team to sort the information

Once you have the information coming in, you’re going to need people who will collect, monitor and sort it into actionable insights. This calls for a need to create a dedicated part of your social team to manage your crowdsourcing efforts.

Based on the goals you previously set, you can determine the best teams to monitor your social media comments and polls and keep things organized.

Depending on your goals, you may even have different teams to monitor different efforts. For instance, a dedicated team from customer support could monitor support-related feedback. Your marketing team can take over the surveys related to customer interests to gain insights promotional campaigns or to share with the larger organization.

4. Have a unified monitoring platform

The more sources of information you have coming in from social channels, the more overwhelming it can get extremely overwhelming to try and make sense of what you have. If you’re conducting social media crowdsourcing through a single channel, this may not be a problem. For instance, you may be running Instagram Stories polls just for a specific campaign.

However, that’s not the case when you’re using multiple social media platforms. You may even miss some important comments if you have to monitor them all manually.

This makes it crucial to have a unified monitoring platform so you and your team can easily sort through the collected information and manage your social media. You’ll have a much easier time collecting every comment or response and prioritizing on the most important details.

Engagement tools and social listening tools from Sprout mentioned earlier are perfect for this. They let you manage all your messages, reviews and mentions in one place and provide valuable analytics data to inform your efforts.

What to do next

Social media crowdsourcing is a valuable tool for businesses and content creators alike. You can use it to inform your content strategy, promotion strategy, product development efforts and more. Make the most of the tips we’ve provided here to take an organized approach to crowdsourcing.

Try out our free worksheet on creating connection with your audience to inspire more content that matters to your customers.