“We asked these 8 sharks for their opinion…”
Like infographics and guest blogging before it, there are fears in the industry that crowdsourced content – where you ask multiple people to pass on their favourite tip/tool/etc. – may have jumped the shark, in that it has been done-to-death and fallen in quality, making it a less worthwhile content marketing tactic.
I was going to save blogging my thoughts on this until after I talked about CR 25 at BrightonSEO in April, as two of CR 25‘s posts were crowdsourced content (and one of them became one of the campaign’s most popular posts), but following Peep Laja’s tweet stating that if a “list has more than 5 items, it’s shitty curation,” plus the fact that: a) a lot of the replies he received agreed with him, and b) crowdsourced content in particular often contain tens or dozens of participants (or ‘items’), I wanted to give my thoughts…
Crowdsourced content is popular because it’s pure ego-baiting – people love to be asked their opinion on something. And by doing so, they’re likely to share it via social media. Oh and the more people you ask, the more content you get, resulting in a lengthy blog post in the 1,000s of words that’s likely to hit the long-tail like crazy. So if you ask 50 people to contribute to a post, you have 50 potential tweeters at the ready and a long blog post on your hands.
The ‘SEO echo chamber’ strikes again…
The problem with crowdsourced content is that it has been done-to-death… in the SEO/content marketing industry. I won’t link to any real-life examples as I don’t want to come across as a hater, plus I’m genuinely grateful when I’ve been given the opportunity to contribute to them myself (e.g. I recently shared my biggest link building success story of 2014 – and hell, I even did one myself a couple of years ago!), but things tend to get a little overboard when 15 SEOs are asked for their favourite link building tip, or 43 SEOs are asked for their favourite SEO software tool, or 161 SEOs are asked their favourite colour…
But do you know the trick that we’ve been missing, which I didn’t even realise until recently, which may completely change your view on crowdsourced content? Stop asking your peers and start asking your clients/customers.
Why asking clients/customers is the way forward
I don’t think I’ve seen a single SEO agency create a crowdsourced post asking for contributions from in-house Heads of SEO/Digital in particular for their contribution…
“In-house SEOs: what do you look for in an SEO agency?”
“In-house SEOs: what drives you crazy about working with SEO agencies?”
“In-house SEOs: what’s the one thing that keeps you up at night?”
The beauty here is that you’re not only getting free content created for you and potentially promoted for you (if the participants tweet about it once it’s published), but you’re getting onto your prospective clients’/customers’ radar. At the very least: they contribute, you create content based on their free contribution and that’s it. But now they know about you and your agency. What if they’re looking for a new agency when you happen to approach them? It’s basically a sneaky way to get in front of their faces without pestering them in other ways (e.g. cold-calling or hounding them over Twitter).
A crowdsourced content case study – from free content to a new client
This happened with one of our two crowdsoured posts for CR 25. We asked 8 South Wales-based IT employees (developers, engineers, consultants, etc.) what they look for in an employer, but we also asked 16 South Wales-based IT employers – from big companies with dedicated IT teams to small startups – what they look for in an employee.
For the latter in particular, we targeted a mix of current clients and prospective clients – the latter being people that Computer Recruiter would love to recruit for. Some of them were companies and startups that I knew personally but CR didn’t, so I leaned on my network a bit – which meant that I already had the relationship with them to ask them, too.
Funnily enough, when we approached one of the companies, their CTO said: “thanks for asking me to contribute… oh by the way, I’m actually after a PHP developer at the moment.” Booyah. Subsequently this company came on-board as a new client for CR. Now bearing in mind that the post didn’t go live until January 2015 but we asked him to contribute back in October 2014 and they became a client in the same month, I think this might be one of the only times I’ve ever known a marketing campaign to prove ROI before it’d even launched. Try to get your head around that… don’t worry – it hurt my head, too.
So much better than simply asking other recruiters (some of whom might’ve been their direct competitors) to contribute to a post instead.
Summarising longer posts
Another thing that worked well for the CR 25 posts is that we summarised what everyone said at the end of the posts.
This made things a lot more interesting than simply dumping each contribution on the page and calling it a day – by taking the time to read through each contribution and tallying up the responses, we found out some interesting things…
Firstly, employers favour attitude over technical skill. Can you believe that? They’d much rather hire someone with no experience (but can be trained) and who has the right attitude, than someone who’s experienced but got a bee up their bonnet. I really, really wanted to pass this info on to an angry commenter who ranted at one of our guest bloggers saying: “I have a lot of experience, but apparently that counts against me” – no, your attitude is probably what’s working against you, mate…
Secondly, the most important thing for employees is knowing that they’re valued and that their ideas are listened to and considered. Out of our 8 respondents for that post, only one of them mentioned salary – and rather than saying “I want to be rich,” he mentioned it in the context that he wanted to support his family.
Tom Buckland’s recent post – asking SEOs for their top 3 industry peers – is another great example of this. Instead of simply putting down everyone’s contributions, he tallied up the most popular and ranked them, showing everyone with 2+ votes in an infographic. So if you’ve got a lot of responses, consider summarising the findings – you might be surprised at what you find out.
No shark-jumping today, folks…
So there we have it. No, crowdsourced content hasn’t jumped the shark – outside of the SEO industry at least. In other industries, I’d wager that it’s only just the beginning. So don’t give up on crowdsourced content just yet. In fact, embrace it. I think it has a lot of potential – so long as you ask the right people and present it in the right way.