Crowdsource From Your Community – the Tom Sawyer Way – with @DaveOHoots

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Crowdsource from your Community the Tom Sawyer Way – Community Nuggets Vol.1 from HootSuite on Vimeo.

Joining the ranks of authenticity and transparency, crowdsourcing is quickly becoming everyone’s favorite buzzword. With more platforms continuing to seamlessly erode barriers between you and your communities, you should be using the crowd to your advantage.

Many talk, but few speak about, how to actually crowdsource projects effectively. The key is that it takes a certain nuance and subtle communication tactics in order to pull it off.

Along with the video above, we’ll outline below how you can embrace your inner Tom Sawyer to motivate your community to work for you. Citing examples of how HootSuite crowdsources everything from its name, to translations into 13 different languages, you’ll learn practical tips to put your community to work.

Plus, dig in for info about our activities for Community Manager Appreciation Day including a new program designed to help Community Managers share their stories with their companies while also sharing feedback with us.

1) Identify a clear mandate and timeline

Never-ending projects lose momentum – we know this from experience with some of our language translations. To ensure your projects don’t fizzle out and lose steam, articulate precise timelines or targets, and uphold your deadlines at all costs (or at least communicate any changes).

Measuring is also important, so you’ll want to find a way to quantify your efforts and have check-ins in place to ensure quality and consistency.

2) Inspire and incentivize

Treat your volunteers like employees by allowing them the same accountabilities and processes as your local workers. You can accomplish this by sharing your vision and story to give them a glimpse into your world.

Let them bask in the glory of your successes, but also feel your pain and struggles to ensure they are emotionally invested. While you allow them the same benefits of employees in many respects, certainly the monetary value differs. Instead, incentivize with perks and hugs (virtual or physical).

You’ll also want to learn about your volunteers. Why are they participating? What drives them? What makes them tick?

Find the answers to these questions, then help them achieve their goals and you’ll build loyalty amongst your contributors.

3) Turn your community into stars

Cast the spotlight away from you and onto your star contributors. It goes without saying that you need to thank people for their work… but take this a step further and publicly thank them.

In the Internet age, social currency is paramount so give your contributors a shoutout on your company blog with links to their personal website or social profile(s). Also, share pictures so your audience can match a face to your description.

Take things a step further by becoming a part of their audience. Publicly Tweet them, offer a comment on their blog, and give them a LinkedIn Recommendation and enjoy  the power of these micro-gestures.

Finally, complement any virtual currency with physical gifts: handwritten thank-you letters are a great personal gesture and custom swag packages go a long way as well. 

4) Forward momentum, frequently shared

Crowdsourcing is interesting and interesting content is what resonates with your audience. Share regular updates on the progress of your crowdsourcing project via social channels to even set up an exclusive email newsletter for each project to keep the positive energy flowing with your updates. The effect is contagious and your collaborators will feed off the story.

Continually remind your audience why this project is important by communicating the macro-level vision and share how your communities’ efforts directly help your clients and stakeholders.

Finally, share any coverage liberally. Write news roundups of all your coverage from the giants (TechCrunch, Mashable, etc) right down to ‘Bob’s Social Sitcom Blog’ (sadly, this blog does not exist :)). Placing Bob’s blog right next to larger coverage is another powerful gesture and “Bob” will be ecstatic and more inclined to cover your news in the future.

5) Model behavior to motivate

Lead the way by showing your own contributions. Be translucent from the outset about your ambitions and goals with the project and how volunteers fit into these plans. This ensures you don’t manipulate or take advantage of your new friends.

Model your “keeners” as examples to motivate others. Ensure there is a system in place to reward contributors, for example: ‘level up’ with different badges, offer titles (we use Diplomats, Ambassadors, Envoys etc.) for different tiers of contribution which reflect your brand and story…think Cub Scouts!

Using these principles, HootSuite manages and executes the translation of HootSuite’s web-based dash and mobile apps into 13+ languages as 95% of the HootSuite Translation Project is done by volunteers. All it takes is a bit of subtle psychology and nuanced communication, and you’ll embrace the power of the crowd.

Remember, be the busdriver: clearly outline where you are going, how and when you’ll get there, and take your friends with you on a majestic (and safe) journey.

Crowdsource from your community the Tom Sawyer WayWhat is Community Nuggets anyway?

Community Nuggets is a bi-weekly series on The Community Manager about community building, social media management, and communications strategy. We’re sharing practical intel about how HootSuite’s built out communities – both locally and internationally. Stay tuned as next time we’ll discuss building international communities from scratch (on a shoe-string budget).

Get in touch with HootSuite’s Community Wranglers by joining the HootClub Facebook Group or Tweeting @HootClub.

P.S. HootSuite has epic plans for Community Manager Appreciation Day including a new Community Manager Advisory Council. Space is limited (we can’t onboard *everyone* at once) so get ahead of the crowd and apply now!

Your Tips

What tactics and strategies have you found effective for crowdsourcing?

Are there any particular platforms or brands that do a great job of crowdsourcing?

We’re listening.

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About the author

Connor is HootSuite's Community Manager of North America, West, regularly sharing HootSuite stories on the HootSuite Blog. When not building community, you'll find him playing and following just about every sport, high fiving strangers while running, and drinking too much coffee.


Such a treat to share my stories with community wranglers everywhere. I feel like i've practiced for this gig my whole life and look forward to hearing about the success others find from these tips, tactics and anecdotes. 

Remember to keep in touch via @hootclub, we're here to help direct you to resources from hugs to partnerships and of course, stay tuned for more treats. 


My first takeaway was Dave's question "What's the sign on the front of your bus?" Knowing your destination is crucial to an enjoyable community trip!


It can be scary to ask your customers for ideas. They might want huge, unreasonable and epic things. The great thing about asking for their input is that it shows that you care. You can have a conversation about those huge, unreasonable and epic things, too, so you can respect their suggestions and give them visibility as to why they are huge. 

Another way to crowdsource ideas is to suggest a few options to them and get them started. I like to approach customer input openly. That is, be open to their feedback, criticism and put their comments into action. 


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