Crowd-funding, crowd-sourcing and crowd-collaboration were hot topics at Futures of Entertainment 5, held at MIT on the 11-12th November. And as I sat in the audience, I wondered: who is in this generic ‘crowd’ they’re referring to?
Beyond the realm of buzzwords and academic discourse, there is no generic crowd. So it was extremely valuable to hear from practitioners who are engaging very specific audiences as part of the creative, production and distribution processes. Their experiences are highly relevant to marketers who want to create participatory programs, and what they’ve learned can help you engage your crowd more effectively.
The ‘Creating with the Crowd’ panel was particularly enlightening. Timo Vuorensola worked with his fans to source ideas, secure production assistance, and fund his latest film project, Iron Sky. Timo explained that within his community, there are different types of participants who are willing to engage in different ways. People who give money to his projects are treated in a different way to his collaborative community, and his Facebook community.
This makes a lot of sense, and follows the skimmer, dipper, diver model that we apply at Campfire. We design a rewarding experience at every level of engagement, while creating paths to lead participants into a deeper engagement, and providing tools to share their involvement and bring in new participants.
On the same panel, we heard from Bruno Natal from Queremos, a group that engages Sao Paulo music fans to help bring international acts to the city’s venues. The model is designed to pay back the fans that help promote the event by refunding their ticket when profit targets are met. But the key to keeping the crowd happy isn’t monetary reward – it’s transparency. For every event, Queremos sends out balances showing the revenue for the event, ticket sales at different prices, and how the money was spent. They can’t always give a full refund to the people who help made the event happen. “We still get positive responses. A couple of times, the early adopters paid more for tickets than those who bought later…but they didn’t care, they wanted to be part of it. It’s about doing something, about helping bring a band to town.”
This is an interesting observation about a crowd’s motivation for participating. If you understand what they really value, and make an effort to deliver this within a transparent system, you’re going to have a happy crowd.
Both of these examples demonstrate the importance of getting to know the communities you’re engaging – whether that’s a Facebook page, a hardcore fan forum, or a crowd of music-lovers. Research and metrics can be a good place to start, but if you really want to move people to participate you need to understand their passion points and their behaviors. If they’re already making content (eg. fan trailers, art, fan-fiction), you may have some co-creators in your crowd, but if they’re passionate conversationalists you’re better off designing something that they can talk about.
Getting to know the fans and the way their communities operate is what turns an anonymous ‘crowd’ into a number of knowable sub-groups who can be understood and catered for. Once you’ve surveyed the landscape of communities that have common interests with your brand’s purpose you’re in the perfect position to create campaigns and platforms that resonate, engage and get results.