It seems like an magic bullet for saving money for every small-business owner. Instead of hiring employees to answer customer questions online, get other customers, experts or vendors to answer concerns. Jen Cohen Crompton of SAP.com points out that a lot of large companies like Apple and Best Buy successfully do this through forums on their websites: Why shouldn't your company?
Many small businesses think they can't use crowdsourcing because they do not have a large enough following online. But the success of this strategy is not based on the number of people on a forum. Instead it's based on how loyal the people on the forum actually are, according to Sarah Robinson, author of Fierce Loyalty: Unlocking the DNA of Wildly Successful Communities.
"If you only have five fans, but they show up to your site every day and give valuable advice, crowdsourcing can work!" she explains.
To actually do crowdsourcing, the long-term investment in the platform needs to be less than having hired employees provide the support. In addition, you would still need employees to monitor what customers say and ensure it is valuable for others. If a crowdsourcing forum is something you are considering, test it first by soliciting advice on a current company blog.
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