No PowerPoint, no video, no script – just comic timing and the ability to throw in some serious statistics. That was Hootsuite’s trilby hat-wearing Dave Olson on crowdsourcing.
If it all sounds gimmicky, it really wasn’t – rather it was a refreshing take on storytelling and creating audience participation at SXSW. And Dave had a great story to tell.
He started by exploring why brands or individuals might want to crowdsource. We might have multiple motivations: to get links, to have fun – and in his view, the most important reason is the sense of helping to create something important.
Dave has done this first hand with a couple of projects including the True North media house, around the winter Olympics in Vancouver. The inspiration was wanting to tell stories that mainstream media (focused he says on medals, scandals or good-looking competitors) didn’t. With the help of some friends, Dave mobilised people to tell stories on the ground.
People were asked to self-identify how they wanted to get involved, and no-one was excluded as long as they took responsibility for their work, signed up to Creative Commons and put their content into the project’s RSS feed. Contributors were asked to print out badges and this visual identification meant suddenly the group became real as it took physical form walking round. People started getting perks for having badges, which then turned into a game. Then once the Paralympics started, the official media shipped out but the community stayed active, documenting events and enabling the athletes to share their experience with friends and families.
The group also became a topic of the mainstream media, which was initially dismissive but because it was so successful it took over the Web, pushing out the official channels. London2012 analysts were documenting this so maybe we’ll see some touches of this in the UK this summer.
This worked, says Dave Olson, because it had “importantness,” enabled participants to have fun and made them feel part of something bigger.
Dave also talked about the Hootsuite translation project which was driven by people wanting to help out from love and pride in the brand. As a result it expanded into more than a dozen countries entirely by crowdsourcing. The team realised just how important this was once the Arabic service was the only way for people in Egypt to share news in that language for 36 hours during the protests in 2011.
Fundamentally Dave believes “forward momentum frequently shared” is essential to crowdsourcing, not incentives like money. As he said, “Crowdsourcing comes from the heart not the wallet.” Down the road people might get a stipend but that’s not the the starting point. “Start them with heart, and if they are high performers bring them more into your club.”