Who is your customer? Is it the crowd or is it the end customer of your service? One of the challenges facing many successful crowdsourcing businesses is the two-face messaging problem: on one hand your website and public persona needs to be engaging for your crowd of users while on the other hand you must attract customers to purchase the final product.
For example, to attract a large crowd to complete tasks it is important to make it simple to join and to emphasize the benefits of contributing. However, potential customers of your final crowdsourced product require a vastly different messaging.
Although building a crowd is an important initial step, established crowdsourcing companies (just like any successful company) must now focus on attracting a customer base for their product.
Today, most of these companies have a crowd-facing portal and a customer-facing portal, with the latter playing a more central role on their homepage. For example, you need to scroll to the very bottom of the Trada homepage to find the "Join the Crowd" link. Potential members of the crowd ("Optimizers" in Trada's case) are then directed to the crowd portal where relevant and engaging information is directed at them.
To Crowdsource or Not to Crowdsource?
Do customers even need to know we are leveraging crowdsourcing to complete their problem or project?
For example, in the case of LiveOps, a company that does crowdsourced phone support, crowdsourcing is not a central part of their messaging or branding. In their case, customers may view the use of crowdsourcing in a negative light and question their quality control. On the other hand, Trada emphasizes how the distributed nature of their crowd makes it inherently creative at solving the Adwords problem.
So the question is:
Are you a crowdsourcing company, or are you a business who happens to leverage crowdsourcing?
Companies will use many tools to bring efficiencies to their operations. Crowdsourcing is just another one of these tools. Thus I propose a simple new classification system with two categories: companies that leverage crowdsourcing to build products for their customers (such as Tomnod, Trada, LiveOps, UTest, etc...) and companies that develop platforms that help other businesses leverage crowdsourcing (e.g. CrowdFlower, ClickWorker, etc...).
The category into which a company falls indicates how they will present their use of crowdsourcing to their customers. Companies from the two categories often cross this boundary as they seek the most successful path to market.
What do you think about these classifications? Are they fair? Are they useful? Let us know in the comments below.