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April - 2012 - issue > Technology
How to Harness the Power of the Crowd!
Sanjay Dholakia
Monday, April 2, 2012
Established in 2005, CrowdFactory is a Social Promotion and Referral Platform used by both B2B and B2C companies as well as small and large companies. It helps marketers amplify their marketing programs by adding a powerful and quantifiable social boost to every marketing channel.

Facebook and other social networks have completely changed the world we live in. Not since the mid 1990s when the first Internet wave came along have we seen such a massive sea change in the way we socialize, entertain each other and ourselves, communicate with colleagues and friends and even interact with our leaders and governments. Just Google "Arab Spring" and you’ll see the massive impact social networks have made on our political landscape alone this past year.

Perhaps the most telling sign a cultural revolution is underway however, is seeing just how focused the business world is on the topic. Nobody ever spends as much time and energy trying to leverage a sea change as the wide-eyed opportunists looking to profit from it. And that's certainly the case now with social networks. But like much of the misguided focus and energy spent during the early days of the dotcom explosion which was lost in vain (Google "Dot com failures" for some fun reading) so too will much of the focus and energy allocated to leveraging "social" for business gain. The business winners in the social revolution will be those who are able to identify the very few important opportunities that will truly help organizations achieve new levels of productivity and/or cultivate deeper relationships with customers. There are early and significant signs that on the sales and marketing side of the business house, "data collection" may just be one of those few important opportunities.

Never before have businesses been able to understand the people they touch at all stages of the sales and marketing cycle as well as they can now. Technology has improved this each and every year for the past three decades, but the social explosion has provided a quantum leap forward in the data now available to businesses about their prospects and customers. And in these early days, the key to unlocking that data is getting people to “share” your content. Sharing is the crux of the social explosion – so much so that it might be better labeled the "Sharing Explosion". If we’ve learned anything these past few years, it’s that human beings love to share. Some share to teach, some share to gloat, some share to be relevant, some share to connect on a deeper level and some share to express who they are. Regardless of the reason, the desire to share is incredibly strong and the means to share has never been greater.

It is in that all important "share" where the data opportunity exists. The "social share" gives businesses the legal and emotional right to capture personal data and it opens the door to an unbelievable wealth of information on an individual, from something as simple as their preference for Facebook or Twitter (i.e. sharing channel of choice) to the always valuable gender distinction, to the monumentally powerful "level of influence" - it’s hard to argue that a business should treat those with 10 followers the same as those with 10 million followers.

From our vantage point at Crowd Factory, an early and growing player in the world of social marketing software, we are seeing some of the biggest brands on the planet as well as some of the more sophisticated small and medium sized companies take full advantage of this data. First, they are finding ways to encourage more and more sharing of their company’s content. Getting people to share can’t just be done with a simple share button. Lots of data has already been collected to show that people don’t actually use those very much. Instead, the content and the experience must be engaging and compelling to make people want to share. With social applications that now compel people to invest a little bit of themselves; the sharing is a natural by-product of engagement. There are two major benefits of sharing. First, you get people to spread your content across social networks which gets your name and brand out there far and wide for significantly less money than traditional advertising, and in a much more credible way. And second, and maybe more important, the "share" enables you to capture what is now quickly becoming one of the most valuable pieces of information about a prospect that you can possibly have, their "social profile".

The social profile includes all the value of the ever-coveted email address, only it provides so much more to a business than a simple means to reach out to that individual over and over again with messages that support the cause of the day. The social profile includes insights into who the person is, and clues, both direct and indirect, about what makes the person tick. The most innovative companies are clued in and already amassing massive databases of social profiles of individuals, their sharing behavior, their social reach and the results they drive to the bottom line. Some have called the social profile the new "opt-in" – in honor of the tried and true email address, but in reality the social profile is so much more. For businesses, the social profile is clearly emerging as one of the holy grails of the social revolution.

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