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Crowdsourcing supercharges mobile marketing with audience authenticity

With Google?s recent acquisition of Waze and TripAdvisor?s deal for GateGuru, it is clear mobile companies see crowdsourcing as playing a key role in their next-generation of mobile services while brands are just beginning to dabble.

Crowdsourcing services such as Waze and GateGuru leverage mobile to collect real-time information from users that others will find useful, such as traffic updates and airport security wait times. While crowdsourcing is not exclusive to mobile, the ability to have so many people walking around with mini computers in their hands significantly broadens and enhances crowdsourcing?s influence.

?Crowdsourcing is still fairly nascent on mobile, mostly because marketers are unsure how to use it to drive business results,? said Dave Martin, senior vice president of media at Ignited, El Segundo, CA.

?But the fact that consumers spend more time using social networking tools like Instagram, Vine and Facebook than any other mobile activity means we should expect to see a lot of brands dabbling in those areas, asking their consumers to contribute to their content repertoires,? he said.

Finding authenticity
The role of crowdsourcing in mobile services is likely to continue growing going forward.

Brands are also beginning to take notice of crowdsourcing and looking at ways to incorporate it into their strategies.

For example, DailyCandy?s Scout app enables iPhone users to get dynamic updates on where to eat, shop, drink and explore based on their location and to snap photos and share them.

GateGuru's iPhone app

Additionally, Aeropostale?s new store concept features iPads in dressing rooms and elsewhere throughout the store where users can vote on the music playing in the store, among other activities.

The opportunities provided by crowdsourcing and mobile include being able to leverage the authentic voice of regular people and passionate customers, which can be powerful for brands. Of course, this also opens up the possibility of people expressing negative brand experiences.

?As with anything in the realm of ?social media,? including crowdsourcing, a marketer has to be comfortable and willing to accept the negatives that invariably come with the positives,? said Andy Wasef, head of innovation and technology at MEC.

?In mobile, that means accepting that some people will have unflattering things to say about your brand, product or service, but if you?re happy to take the good you also have to accept the bad,? he said.

?If you don?t, then you?ll fall down on the key benefit of crowdsourcing, and that?s authenticity.

Driving word-of-mouth awareness is another opportunity provided by crowdsourcing.

However, this requires brands to let of traditional brand guidelines by letting fans contribute to crafting the message.

?Using your fans to help create content on behalf of your brand has a lot of power, mostly because a consumer who is invested enough to contribute something to a crowdsourcing program is highly likely to make sure that their own fans, friends and followers get a chance to see what they?ve created,? Ignited?s Mr. Martin said.

One of the challenges with crowdsourcing on mobile is determining the value of these efforts.

Another is managing the wealth of information.

"One of the main challenges is curating and moderating content and information that comes in," said Ian Smith, director of entertainment marketing at mOcean, Los Angeles. "There's usually a mass amount of it and in some cases, it isn't always what you need, whether it be negative, not relevant, etc.

"Understanding how to manage the volume of information and content is going to be key for marketers as they tap into crowd sourced content more regularly," he said.

Brand advocates
Another challenge with crowdsourcing is ensuring that the information being provided is accurate.

This is why MEC?s Mr. Wasef says he expects to see more accurate filters applied to crowdsourced information going forward with the goal of making the information relevant to individuals.

Brands also need to tread carefully so that consumers do not perceive their efforts as trying to buy an endorsement, which can result in a backlash.

?As with any activity where you?re asking consumers to advocate your business or products, consideration should be given to how best reward that consumer advocacy, while balancing that against any potential perception of having bought the advocacy,? said Mark Pinsent, social and content lead at Metia, Kirkland, WA.

?A consumer endorsement should be seen as the chance to build a closer relationship and prompt greater loyalty moving forward,? he said.

Providing value
When looking to leverage crowdsourcing, marketers should make sure they keep their efforts simple.

It is also important to give users a strong enough reason to want to participate.

?There are a few key things to keep in mind when considering crowdsourcing,? Ignited?s Mr. Martin said. ?First and foremost, keep it simple - if it isn?t easy to participate, you won?t see good results.

?Second, make sure there is a compelling reason to contribute something positive,? he said. ?Consumers should be rewarded when they participate in ways that support the brand?s goals.

?Finally, make sure you?ve thought through what you plan to measure and how those KPIs relate to your business. Reach doesn?t matter without impact.?

Because crowdsourcing on mobile is in near real-time and the information comes from other consumers ? whom tend to be more trusted than brands these days ? this can help consumers overcome some of the psychological hurdles to making a purchase.

However, this comes with potential pitfalls as well as benefits.

?The challenge is that everyone has a phone and an opinion,? said Dirk Rients, senior vice president and director of mobile for DDB Chicago.

?The opportunity is that brands can use crowdsourcing as a way to generate new ideas and products and gain instant feedback,? he said.

?I think some marketers have used crowdsourcing to their advantage like Pepsi, Oreo, and GE, while others are still trying to figure out how to implement it.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York