A New Wrinkle on Crowdsourcing: Curated Communities

May 30, 2018

By Nick Pahade

Lucky Team Studio/Shutterstock.com

There is a multitude of research affirming the positive impact personalization and customization can have on marketing outcomes, like this one that found 86 percent of shoppers who experienced personalization said it influences what they purchase. But marketers are faced with a serious challenge when it comes to personalizing/customizing their content in the digital arena, especially video, amid brand safety concerns. While ad tech has greatly increased the level of granularity marketers can achieve in their targeting strategies, that capability isn't worth much unless the messages they deliver are tailored to their specific targets. That requires a lot of content, and creating it requires a level of agility and cost-effectiveness that traditional content creation and distribution models simply can't provide. But a variation on crowdsourcing via curated platforms can help marketers meet the challenges of creating more — and more personalized — content quickly and economically.

On the content demand side, communities are driving changes in how brands reach and interact with their prospects and customers. Platform access and the speed of technology give communities more power over how content is distributed, consumed, changed, perceived, even ideated. The importance of influencer marketing increases in this environment, as do the challenges for brands to exert control over their messaging and to ensure brand safety. A crowdsourcing strategy that taps into specialized communities can help marketers meet their needs for more influencer content without ceding control over messaging and safety while remaining true to brand appropriate channels and audiences.

Brands typically engage with influencers and content creators in one of two ways. First, they (or their agencies) maintain regular contact with a roster of influencers, regularly sending them product in the hope they will review and promote it. Generally, there is not much vetting involved in these relationships, and the brand retains virtually no control over the subsequent messaging. Second, brands may partner with an influencer to deliver an on-brand message, perhaps through a product review that is synergistic with the influencer's channel. The level of vetting is usually higher here, involving a deeper dive into how the influencer's content and audience align with the brand's target, messaging, and safety standards.

Recently, a third approach has been gaining traction. Having gone through many different partners in this space, a growing number of brands are shifting toward brand ambassador-type relationships, where they work directly with a subset of influencers/content creators. In some cases, they are creating private, dedicated communities of influencers/content creators and tapping into them on a regular basis. These new partners may even be provided with briefs and promotional calendars, and there is an ongoing commitment between the brand and the influencer around messaging, specific content, and safety.

The big advantage this type of partnership offers marketers is the ability to generate the vast amount of content required to keep up with ad tech's hyper-personalization/segmentation capabilities in a cost-effective way while still retaining a reasonable level of control. This idea of crowdsourcing from a controllable platform or community lives somewhere in the space between the free-for-all of first-gen influencer marketing and the expense and time constraints of conventional media creation.

Production quality versus compelling content remains the tension of today's landscape. Price, production quality, and timeline are the three big constraints brands bump up against in marketing all the time. With the traditional model, you might spend $500 thousand on a 30-second spot and have six months to produce it. That's fine, because it's going to live on TV for four months. But what do you do when you need 500 pieces of content in different lengths against a variety of objectives in seven global markets? And, oh yeah, you need it in 60 days? The old model just can't deliver that kind of scale. This new one can.

Does the scale, agility, and cost-effectiveness a controlled crowdsourcing model offers come with trade-offs? Of course it does, but they are manageable — and far outweighed by the benefits provided. By choosing the right communities and platforms of influencers/content creators, brands can still retain acceptable levels production quality, budget management and timeline while delivering content in brand safe environments. The payoff comes in the ability gained to generate relevant content at the scale required to leverage all the wonderful targeting, optimization, filtering, and other capabilities that ad tech already offers.


Nick Pahade is the COO and president of Digital Remedy, where he oversees all day-to-day operations of the company.


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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