4 Ways to Crowdsource Product Ideas Using Social Media Contests


social media how to Do you want to take your customer engagement to the next level?

Have you used crowdsourcing to gain consumer insight or to choose your next product line?

Do you use contests as motivation to get input from your customers?

In this article, you’ll discover how crowdsourcing your products through contests on social media will help you deepen customer involvement and increase loyalty.

Why Use Crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing is a method of getting ideas, content, support or other types of solutions from a group of people. The term was coined by Wired magazine in 2005. In a nutshell, it is like “outsourcing” solutions to crowds through social media.

You’ve heard of crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo that allow fans to give financial support in exchange for incentives, so people can complete their projects. There are many other businesses that incorporate the idea of getting input from the masses into their business model, too.

localmotors crowdsource platform

Local Motors helps deliver cars exactly as customers want.

Applause (formerly uTest) is a tech application testing site that enables crowd beta-testing worldwide. Local Motors brings crowdsourcing to new vehicle innovations. You can actually co-create your car with people around the globe.

You don’t have to be a super-innovator to crowdsource. Businesses around the world are increasing profits by crowdsourcing. They build consensus, get instant product feedback and listen to and incorporate customers’ input.

Engaging crowds to make your products better is getting easier—and almost expected—thanks to social media and your consumers’ desire to have their voices heard. Incentivize your readers with contests and you’ve got it made.

Here are four ways you can involve your social followers through crowdsourcing your products.

#1: Ask Your Customers What They Want

Whether you’re a retail B2C or a corporate-oriented B2B, you need to supply the products your consumer wants.

The better you can match a consumer’s needs, the more likely they will be to buy from you. The better you can engage them and show that you listen to their needs, the more likely they’ll become loyal customers.

A simple way to do this is to ask your followers on Twitter.

Use your Twitter feed to give consumers a choice and ask them to tell you which product option they’d most like to buy. This is a method of crowdsourcing your wholesale buying decisions, while you show that you really do listen to your customers.

Here’s an example from a local toy retailer.

This toy store needed to know which LEGO product would sell the fastest, so they set up a simple vote contest and asked their customers directly. They motivated people to vote by doing a giveaway of the winning LEGO set to a contest participant.

twitter crowdsource contest

A contest where you ask your audience to vote on Facebook, Twitter or your blog can engage your consumers and give you input on what to stock in your store.

Tips for asking your customers what they want:

  • Ask for product supply input from your social followers on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ or even your blog.
  • On Twitter, post updates about your contest at various times throughout the day, and use related hashtags to gain more reach.
  • Increase the motivation to share by offering a prize such as the product itself.

A clear call to action asking customers what they want will increase social interaction, as well as brand loyalty.

#2: Conduct Research on Consumer Preferences

You might think of consumer research as a laborious process with single-room focus groups, telephone interviews and paper surveys. With social media platforms, however, it’s gotten a lot easier to gain insights into what your customers want.

A simple way to gain basic consumer insights about your products is to create a Facebook vote contest.

Ask your fans to vote on their:

  • Favorite product
  • Preferred product color
  • Best use of your product
  • Favorite shopping method (online/offline/mall/boutique)
  • And so on

Crocs, for example, hosts a “new release shoesday” contest on Facebook. They engage their fans by asking them what their favorite new shoe is that week, and fans who participate have a chance to win Croc shoes. Crocs then gains relevant consumer insights about market preferences.

crocs contest

Crocs hosts product-related Facebook vote contests where they can gain insights into consumer preferences.

Tips for conducting consumer research with social media:

  • Keep your research questions simple by using images and asking one question at a time
  • Incentivize participation by giving away a related prize
  • Spread the reach of your research by cross-promoting it to your other social sites and even using Facebook and Google ads

When you create an ongoing contest, you receive regular feedback, while giving your audience something to look forward to and to vote on every week.

#3: Host a “Name a New Product” Contest

The name of your product can make or break its selling success. Engage your customers in an important business decision like this and you will make them feel like they are an essential contributor to your business.

The more your customers feel connected to your business, the more likely they are to buy from you and share good things about your products with their friends.

Generate engagement with a “Name a New Product” contest.

Sony created a lot of buzz last year with its “Help Us With a Name” contest. They looked to the public to help develop a name for their new wireless speaker product. The speakers are small balls in pink, white and black.

Sony posted the contest on their blog and promoted it on all of their social sites through media and other promotional methods. Participants entered their suggested names by commenting on the blog post.

sony contest post

Sony hosted a contest on their blog to crowdsource a new name for their wireless speaker product.

In less than two weeks, Sony had more than 39 pages of name suggestions.

The final names were chosen by Sony executives. Winners were posted on the Sony Facebook page.

sony contest

Sony posted the top 5 names along with the names of the people who submitted them on their Facebook page.

Tips for hosting a “Name Your Product” contest:

  • Use a “namesourcing” site like NamingForce, NameStation, Hatchwise or Name Contests, or set up your own contest on your social sites, website or blog.
  • Promote your contest through your social sites, earned media and paid advertising to generate more entries.
  • Be clear that your company will have the final say in what name wins (just in case the names you get are not suited to your business needs).

Asking your customers to name your product is only the first step. Be sure to share the winner(s) on social media. You can even tweet and tag the winners, if feasible.

#4: Have Your Consumers Create a New Product Variation

Take crowdsourcing further and engage your consumers by asking them to submit an idea for a new product.

When you ask your consumers for such in-depth product input, you give them a sense of empowerment, passion and commitment to what you do. You can also get them thinking about the types of products you already have, which increases both loyalty and sales.

For example:

  • A restaurant owner might crowdsource patrons for a new dessert idea.
  • An interior design firm might crowdsource ideas for a new lamp design.
  • An app company might crowdsource ideas for a new business efficiency tool.

Lay’s has been hosting contests to engage the public by creating new chip flavor ideas. And the Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” contest is one of the most successful new product crowdsourcing campaigns. Participants can access the contest through Facebook or their contest landing page.

Lay’s makes it easy to enter. Participants simply choose a name, give three ingredients and then tweet about their entry. An update is automatically posted to participants’ Facebook timelines, which spreads the reach of the contest and potentially gains more crowd input.

One winner is chosen and receives $ 1 million. Lay’s has been receiving well over $ 1 million of earned media and word-of-mouth marketing. They also get many creative ideas for future product flavors.

lays contest

Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” campaign crowdsources new chip flavors from their consumers.

Tips for crowdsourcing new products:

  • Host a contest on your website, Facebook page or Twitter, or simply ask participants to tell you a new product idea in your blog comments.
  • Ask for new ideas about a product related to the products you already make to deepen product loyalty and increase sales.
  • Give incentives (either monetary or experiential) that appeal to your targeted consumer and brand.

There’s a lot of power in giving your customer an “own-it” mentality. Giving consumers a stake in your company’s decisions turns products they like into products they love.

Your Turn

Crowdsourcing for your business’s products increases engagement, deepens customer loyalty and shows that you are an innovative company. And adding a contest element only gives them more motivation to participate.

What do you think? Have you used crowdsourcing in your social media marketing? What results did you get? Have you participated in any social media problem-solving asks? Share your tips and experiences below.

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