How to Be a Crowdsourcing Rock Star (The Easy Way to Go Viral)

by Kathryn Aragon

Last updated on January 11th, 2018

You’ve heard of crowdsourcing content, I suppose. But have you given any thought to how well it can work to build community and help you go viral?

As a content creator, I knew it was a good way to create content. But I hadn’t given it much thought to its ability to go viral—until my son and his friends came home one evening, excited about producing a video for one of their favorite bands.

A little back story might help.

The Digital Age used to be The David Crowder Band. But when David Crowder quit and the rest of the band wanted to keep making music, they suddenly had a marketing problem: no name recognition and a need for quick success.

That was January 2012. By February, they were rehearsing as a new group. In June 2012, they released their “Rehearsals” EP, which quickly claimed the #1 spot on the iTunes Christian Albums chart (and the interest of fans and reviewers).

Smart marketers that they are, they started growing a fan base an entire year before releasing their first full-length album in August 2013.

the digital age band

Mike Dodson (Mike D), Mark Waldrop, Jack Parker and Jeremy Bush (Bwack) are The Digital Age (Source)

But their marketing savvy doesn’t stop there.

Knowing that real success comes from the loyalty of their fans, The Digital Age is tapping into the power of crowdsourcing to add a viral dimension to their already strong launch plan.

First, let’s look at why crowdsourcing content is such a good idea. Then I’ll show you how The Digital Age did it. And we’ll wind up with five must-have elements that can make you a crowdsourcing rock star in your niche.

What is crowdsourced content?

Crowdsourcing is exactly what it sounds like: using a crowd (your fans and followers) as the source for your content, rather than statistics, research reports, or your own opinion.

Today, in our plugged-in, social world, it’s especially effective: It’s easy to gather input, and it takes social engagement to a whole new level.

So, for instance, you might post a question on Facebook or Google+ and compile the answers into a webinar or blog post.

You might embed tweets made during a live event into an article that reports “favorite comments” from attendees.

Done right, your readers (or viewers) are no longer a passive audience, but active contributors to the end product.

Why you want to do it

Several reasons.

First, it’s easy to share and promote. After writing this article about content writing, I shared it in Google+ like this:

example Google+ post of content

Nothing like name dropping to tap into the fan base of other well-known people in your industry. The article got noticed by people who weren’t necessarily Crazy Egg fans but were avid fans of Demian, Ann, Oli or Johnny.

But that’s not the only reason it’s easy to promote crowdsourced content. People who contribute are proud to share it for you.

That article got shared by almost all of the people I wrote about, extending its reach far beyond my circles or the normal fan base of Crazy Egg.

A few more examples…

Here, Lee Odden shares a post that he contributed to.

Lee Odden promotes

And here, I share one of his posts because he included my comment in his final article. (Share bait does work, friends.)

I promote

It’s easy to get the word out about crowdsourced content because it’s so relevant to your followers. They’ll often share up-front, because they’re excited about participating. And they’ll share afterwards, because they’re featured in it.

It also makes your job as a content creator easier.

While you have to plan in advance to collect people’s input, it doesn’t take long to produce the content. Your followers all but do it for you.

And as a bonus, it easily makes you a thought leader. When you do the research, and you do the reporting, you get the clout.

Here’s how Digital Age did it

Facebook, Twitter and Google+ aren’t your only sources for input from followers. The Digital Age made a video, which is posted on their YouTube channel.

Take a minute to watch how they did it:

(To learn more video marketing tactics, read this post.)

Now you

Keep in mind that crowdsourcing content takes longer to create, so leave yourself plenty of time for gathering input. Then use these five steps to ensure an end product that’s truly worth sharing.

1. Decide who you want to contribute.

You have a few options here.

You can restrict input to hand-selected thought leaders, like I did for this crowdsourced Crazy Egg article.

You can ask for input from your social media followers.

Lee Odden does this extremely well. Take this post, for example, where he polls his followers about their favorite social network.

Lee Odden polls

Or you can ask anyone and everyone, like The Digital Age does. Make a video or write an article asking for input, or start posting on your social streams.

2. Give clear instruction.

People need to know what you’re trying to do, what you need from them, and how to submit their work.

Make it as simple as possible.

The Digital Age tells people they’re making a music video and need video footage to do it. They then break down the instructions into steps:

Step 1: Find a white wall.

Step 2: Get their new single, “Captured.” (Notice that everyone who participates will need to buy their album. What a great way to start moving a new product!)

Step 3: Record yourself singing or playing along with the song, and upload it to YouTube with the title, “Hey TDA, I’m Captured.” (See how easy it is for this to go viral? Friends of friends of friends will see the uploads and want to get involved.)

Instructions are very specific and clear. There’s even a footnote for non-YouTube users about where to email the video.

3. List any limitations or parameters for submissions.

Depending on how you plan to use submissions, you may need to tell people what they can’t do. For instance, The Digital Age asks people to use a white background. And in the email instructions, it asks for a hi-res video.

If people have questions, they don’t usually seek answers. They just quit. So list any vital information that helps people give you what you need.

4. Make it fun.

People engage with brands they like. If you make them laugh or inspire a fun activity, you’re a winner in their book.

Not only will they be more likely to participate, they’ll also become loyal fans.

5. Reward participants.

Make it worth their while to participate. If people spend several hours putting together a video for you… and it’s never recognized… or never sees the light of day… they’ll never participate again.

The Digital Age tells viewers that they’ll find some way to use every submission.

I know that’s good incentive, because the other evening I had three teenage boys in my office, excitedly recording themselves playing and singing to “Captured.”

I’d never even heard of the band, but here I am today, writing an article about them. I’ve read three blog posts about them and have watched a few videos too.

If you don’t already, consider crowdsourcing some of your content. It can make you a content marketing rock star (able to go viral in a single bound).



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Kathryn Aragon

Kathryn Aragon is the former editor of The Daily Egg. She's a content strategist, consultant, and author of The Business Blog Handbook. Learn more at Follow her on Twitter.


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  1. seobharath says:
    September 13, 2013 at 8:35 am

    As a seo analyst it is very much useful to us… great idea…

  2. September 11, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Now my mind is thinking of ways to implement these crowdsourcing ideas… Thanks for another great article, Kathryn.

    BTW – Thanks for the music nod. I loved The David Crowder Band and didn’t realize the other band members were still together as TDA.

    • September 11, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      Glad you liked it, Rob! The article and the music nod.

  3. Liudas says:
    September 11, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Great blog post it gave me some ideas for creating crowdsourced content. Will, try to apply this concept to my business, though I still think that I need a bigger audience first for that.

    • September 11, 2013 at 11:38 am

      That’s awesome, Liudas! You’re right, once you start thinking this way, it opens up lots of doors. I wouldn’t worry too much about how big your audience is now. Use whatever resources you already have, and go from there. Good luck!

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