Finally we come to the last of the FLIRT elements, the Tools of the crowdsourcing effort. Without properly executed, functional, usable and well designed platform and tools, even the best founded effort goes to waste. This issue is in large part technical and should reflect the decisions taken in the previous stages of the FLIRT model.
The tools of crowdsourcing consist of the platform (a common space for the community to gather in); tools for creating original content and interacting with it, as well as tools for the company to harvest community input and measure it with. In the following, these will be discussed in detail.
Platform (tools for facilitating the community)
Own / 3rd party / hybrid
Key considerations for the crowdsourcing platform start from deciding whether to build an own community from scratch, which is time-consuming and expensive but offers the possibility for greatest degree of tailoring; using an existing community and tools available on the web for free (Ning, YouTube, etc.) or for charge (Doritos @ promotions.yahoo.com, other white label community tools), or utilizing some kind of hybrid of these (svenskafans & youtube + metacafe). All have their advantages and drawbacks, and these should be checked against the goals of the effort before deciding on any one. Naturally, piggybacking on existing communities gets a company started far quicker than building a comprehensive service, but might lack in delivering brand message and tailoring possibilities. However, as the Yahoo + Doritos example shows, commercially available web services nowadays are highly customizable to any need and might on many occasion deliver the best experience / cost ratio.
Real-time / relay interaction
According to Duparcq, one key issue is deciding the time-orientation for interaction within the community. Relay service, such as a discussion board or a wiki, offers access to the largest number of people and is able to carry extensive and complex information. Real-time chat offers spontaneous and instant interaction which in turn may spark creativity in ways a discussion forum canâ€™t. However, the amount of information possible to convey over chat environment is bite-size and the people to interact with must all be online at the same time. Nowadays, of course, services that allow multiple dimensions of interaction (e.g. MySpace: video, photo, IM, message board, etc.) are common. Furthermore, there are services at present that do not clearly fall in either of the two categories: is the presence app Jaiku relay or real-time? Itâ€™s both actually, depending on the status of the user.
Tools of creation
Depending on the type of contribution desired, the tools of creation must be established accordingly. Submitting pure ideas does not demand the most sophisticated tools and usually a text interface is quite enough for this kind of activity (with an option to upload the occasional picture or other appendix). When other types of contribution, such as product design, content, etc. is desired, it must be decided what kind of tools will be used and who will provide them. Using a web service as a tool for creation grants the brand owner control over how to frame its offering despite user-generated approach (e.g. Nike), but can still produce undesired results (as it did for Chevy Tahoe). A downloadable software running on the user’s computer offers greater freedom as the program can be heavier and more feature rich than an over-the-web service. It must still be decide, whether to provide the software freely (Lego’s digital designer) or count on the user’s to acquire it by other means (the numerous illegal copies of design software used to create designs posted to threadless.com). When talking about videos, photos, music, etc., also physical devices are needed for creation. These can usually be assumed to be a given that the user already has (like The Shins did when they asked the audience to film their gig and send the clips for making a music video) but can also be provided for them (as Beastie Boys did when they gave out video cameras to the audience for filming their video ‘Awesome, I fucking shot that’). Also physical materials can be provided to boost creativity (Red Bull cans for making sculptures for the Red Bull Art of the Can gallery).
Tools for enabling conversation outside the service
Social media is all about sharing and linking, and this should be emphasized in crowdsourcing as well. Providing the right tools to the crowd for promoting the effort, such as widgets, badges , linking (del.icio.us buttons) and rating tools linking, rating
Tools for the company
Naturally, the company also needs tools for itself to first harvest the collective’s input and extracting meaning out of it and after this, having the processes in place to convert this input into meaningful action within its organization. Within social media measurability is better than in any oother media, but because it is still a fairly new phenomenon, tools for measuring are not commonly agreed on, partly because people don’t even know what they should measure. On egood starting point is this great post by Brian Oberkirch.
That’s it! The FLIRT elements explained. In the next post I will still delve briefly into the different groups and their role in a crowdsourcing effort.