How to Leverage Crowdsourced Content

By July 7, 2020 No Comments
how to leverage crowdsourced content

Leveraging crowdsourced content allows you to work with your audience, including your followers and customers, to create a campaign or accomplish a goal. There are many ways to use crowdsourced content, and using a few best practices can help you gather exceptional content without creating all of it yourself. Here are a few of the ways to leverage crowdsourced content, and how you can manage your crowdsourced campaign.

Social Media

user generated content air bnb

Air BnB works with users on Instagram to spotlight their homes and experiences.

Social media, particularly Instagram, has created an ongoing reel of images curated by consumers. Some businesses have taken advantage of this, and worked with their customers, fans and followers to leverage crowdsourced content. Air BnB, for example, showcases customers’ experiences and images on their Instagram page. This not only allows them to show real customers’ experiences and highlight the benefits of the business, but it also fills their social media profiles with beautiful, engaging, high-quality content for zero cost.

To leverage crowdsourced content in this way, it’s important to communicate clearly with followers and fans. Getting permission to repost photos is essential. You’ll also need to follow the right hashtags or groups to see the photos customers are posting, or encourage them to tag you.


Sorting through libraries of images, code sequences, equations or numbers in search of a solution or particular object is tedious work for a small team. However, this is often essential to solve problems or build on data. If your business is struggling with these obstacles, crowdsourcing may be a solution.

Any double-blind study is essentially crowdsourced research; asking small groups of strangers to test an effect or hypothesis. However, many crowdsourced research projects perform at a much larger scale. Star systems, oceans, roads, mountains, cell coverage networks and much more have all been mapped with help from crowdsourced content. One ongoing example is the crowdsourced initiatives to study protein folding to better understand viruses and other pathogens. Projects like Folding@Home challenge users to unravel protein folding by playing a puzzle game. To date, users’ participation in Folding@Home has aided in publishing 224 scientific papers.

Crowd participation can be used to advance research, as well as uncover wrongdoing. In 2009, The Guardian asked for the public’s help in investigating the MP Expense Scandal and sorting through 700,000 expense claims. Over 20,000 people participated, uncovering a variety of errors and dubious expenses by Members of Parliament. This not only helped to hold Parliament accountable for their spending, but also helped to build community interest, awareness and investment in the story, as well as The Guardian’s journalism.


Businesses from Microsoft to Frito Lay have turned to the crowd to generate ideas, and also build enthusiasm for a new product or service. Asking the public for new concepts, names, or ideas opens the floor to more unique perspectives. With thousands of people pitching ideas, you’re much more likely to find one that is original, exciting, and potentially groundbreaking. Additionally, participants become more invested in these promotions.

leveraging crowdsourced content

Lays used crowdsourcing to discover new chip 19 new chip flavors.

Lays leveraged crowdsourced content and generated enthusiasm with their “Do Us a Flavor” contest. Beginning in 2013, Lays has launched a total of five “Do Us a Flavor” contests and experimented with 19 crowdsourced flavors. Awarding prize money for the winning flavors and piquing consumers’ curiosity, the contests consistently drive sales and generate attention, while also refreshing Lays’ product selection.

Promotions must be conducted with caution. It’s important to remember that the general public may not have the same mood or tone in mind as you do. In 2016, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) learned this after asking the public to submit names for their $300 million polar research vessel. Though it was eventually renamed RRS Sir David Attenborough after the well-known English broadcaster and naturalist, the public originally awarded 124,109 votes to the comical suggestion “Boaty McBoatface.” Since the contest, a number of naming polls have generated similar, comical results, proving that either strict oversight or a good sense of humor is key to any public poll.


Videos have become the most-shared type of media, though they are also the most difficult to produce. Video is also a perfect candidate for leveraging crowdsourced content. Many consumers will document their experiences with your product or service on video, either to share with their own audiences or for enjoyment. Reaching out to these users can give you a great source of impactful, effective video content.

Few businesses leverage crowdsourced content in video better than GoPro. Their wearable camera products, often used for extreme sports or other adventurous activities, make video content an obvious choice. From snowboarding to surfing to aerial drone footage and even climbing skyscrapers, GoPro has created communities, as well as free, authentic advertising from the videos collected from users.

How to Leverage Crowdsourced Content: Best Practices

If you have a strong community or following, and a problem you want to solve, leveraging crowdsourced content may be the way to do it. Maybe you’ve hit a research stumbling block, or maybe you simply want to get the word out about your business. Whatever you’re looking for from the public, keep these best practices in mind as you create your crowdsourced campaign.

  • Ask Permission: Before reposting anyone’s footage, it’s essential to ask permission from the original creator.
  • Be Transparent: Explain, in clear and simple terms, how you’re using your audience’s photos, suggestions, ideas, video or other content.
  • Moderate: Anytime you’re opening up a forum to the public, moderation is key. An unmoderated platform can quickly reflect badly on your business if bad actors participate.
  • Reward: Offer your followers some type of reward for their content. This might be a spotlight on your website, monetary gift, free merchandise, or something else.
  • Connect: Your followers won’t know you’re looking for content unless you tell them. State, clearly and often, what you’re looking for and what you’re offering.


Leverage crowdsourced content to involve your audience and followers, and make some of your tasks easier. By planning and monitoring your campaign carefully, you can utilize high-quality content while also reinforcing the community around your brand.

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