I’m not a believer in the so-called wisdom of the crowd, but I do think that crowdsourcing has cemented its place in modern business.

Crowdsourcing, as you probably know, is a way of using ‘crowds’ to ‘source’ solutions to your problems.

10 kickass crowsourcing sites for your business

What have you crowdsourced lately? Nothing? Well, if you run a website and have embraced user-centricity then think again… perhaps you have conducted user testing? Well, that’s crowdsourcing – asking the crowd for feedback – and it beats a top-down policy of allowing your board to design the website.

Of course there’s more to life than usability testing. So what else can be crowdsourced? It turns out that there are plenty of dedicated crowdsourcing services that can be used for businesses. I’ve collated a bunch of the best ones, and some of them are really great.

Check them out…

Logo design = 99designs

Need a logo? No problem. Simply turn your logo / design project needs into a contest on 99designs. Submit a brief and determine a fee for the contest winner (minimum is around $150), then sit back and watch the crowd go to work. More than 40,000 designers that use 99designs. After all the submissions are in you can choose a design. What could be simpler? I’ll be using this one imminently…

Brand names = namethis

Not dissimilar to 99designs, this is a way of creating a 48-hour contest to find a brand name for your venture. The namethis community suggests names, and then votes on the best ones. Fees are paid to the best three ideas. It costs $99 to harness the namethis crowdbrain.

Business innovation = Chaordix

“When you take direction from employees, customers, partners and other people passionate about your business, you will outperform the competition.”

Spawned from now defunct crowdsourcing startup Cambrian House, Chaordix is an enterprise platform for people who want to engage the crowd via the web to “submit, discuss, refine and rank ideas or other contributions” in order figure out “the most-likely-to-succeed solutions”. A one-stop shop for businesses that want to feel the love of the crowd.

Brainstorming / feedback = kluster

“Everyone deserves a voice. The question is—how loud? Find out now by creating your own kluster—a new breed of group decision-making tool that helps you bubble-up new ideas, identify the best ones, and make better decisions.”

Perfect for brainstorming ideas from trusted people, kluster allows you to harness and manage your hand-picked crowd. More a tool than a crowd itself, kluster supports group decision-making by capturing weighted feedback from participants. I reckon that’s pretty useful within a company itself, or perhaps it can be used by your most valuable user evangelists to help you finesse your business. From $27 a month.

Advertising = Poptent

“Poptent is the best place for independent and freelance videographers to build their portfolios, connect with companies and brands for commercial work.”

TV advertising is 99.9% creative rubbish, so why not start crowdsourcing your ads? They’ll surely be no worse than those prepared by the average Big Media Agency, and a hell of a lot cheaper (there is a significant fee for using Poptent, and another for licensing ideas, but it’s still peanuts compared with the vast sums spent on the usual rubbish). The likes of Harley Davidson and even Proctor & Gamble are using Poptent, so there might be something in this. Zoopa and OpenAd.net are doing similar things.

Product redesign – redesignme

“The first platform where communities and companies collaborate on new / revamped products and services.”

This innovative website hooks up companies with creative thinkers to develop new product / service concepts. RedesignMe’s Design Critique section actively seeks out badly-designed products, which the community can rate. If the manufacturer is receptive, users are then invited to complete design challenges.  

Product design and manufacturing = Ponoko

“Make, sell & buy almost anything.”

What’s interesting about Ponoko is that it allows shoppers and conceptual product designers to bring their ideas to life, however random they may be. You don’t need to possess the talent to design or manufacture the product, since Ponoko’s crowd of designers will do it for you. Better still, you can simply take a picture of a sketch, upload it, and then wait for designers to tell you how much it would cost to have made for real. You can do this for yourself, for bespoke / crazy gifts, or to sell to others. Ponoko rocks. 

Software & usability testing – uTest

There are plenty of reasons why you don’t want to ditch your preferred usability agency, since offline user testing is absolutely essential to businesses of all sizes. But if you want to conduct online testing then uTest’s community of “18,000 QA professionals from 150 countries” might be the place to start. Web, mobile, gaming and desktop apps can be tested, and the service also supports agile developers. 

Data cleansing & entry / content creation = Amazon’s Mechanical Turk

“Mechanical Turk is a marketplace for work. We give businesses and developers access to an on-demand, scalable workforce. Workers select from thousands of tasks and work whenever it’s convenient.”

There are plenty of occasions where the human brain works better than the fastest computer. Tasks that are better performed by humans can be outsourced to Turk. There are currently around 50,000 ‘Human Intelligence Tasks’ (HITs) available for its freelance workforce, including such gems as writing a review of a San Francisco street, or making a video about your coffee stories. Fees per task paid out range from a couple of cents to $30 (Amazon takes 10% commission). There are thought to be at least 100,000 Turkers from around the world.

Images = Flickr Creative Commons

Why bother paying ridiculous sums of money on pictures when there is an alternative as good as Flickr. It’s not perfect for everything (celebs, footballers, etc) but there are millions of high quality images that can be used, with appropriate credits. We use these pictures all the time on our blog. 

So that’s it… but before you stagedive into the crowd there are a few cautionary tales out there, which you might want to familiarise yourself with.

I’d love to hear about your experiences if you’re actively crowdsourcing… please leave a comment below.

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