Category Archives: Crowdsourcing

Cash mobs go beyond the ‘Like’ to make a difference to local businesses

It is all very well liking pages on Facebook, sharing images and links about something you care about, but how many times does your action have a positive effect?

Charity nominations and just giving pages sometimes get overlooked. The post or email gets read and left in your inbox for another free moment. Once we have liked the page, we move on to the next article.

Struggling shops get our sympathy. Huge multinationals moving into our local area get our ire and anger at the destruction of the local economy.  We retweet things on Twitter and share articles on Facebook. But what do you actually do about it?

Cash mobs actually go beyond the passive idea of the Facebook Like. Cash mobs use actual hard cash, spent in a local shop.

So how does it work?

It is all done through the local community grouping together and using their combined networks to spread the word about the local shop that needs support. It is a little bit like crowdfunding only this generates real cash for bricks and mortar businesses in the local community.

The community gets together and decides to spend £10 ($20) or less in a local shop on a designated day. The local shop gets business that would have otherwise gone to a multinational chain of shops and the local community is energised.

Photo: Cash mob tomorrow! Hope to see you all out at Cederberg Tea House and Four Winds.News of the designated shop gets posted on social media. The information is broadcast amongst the community in the local parish magazine, village flyer and local social media. On the specific day, members of the community visit the store and buy something.

Cash mob, Bremerton in Washington state, US has a Facebook page and advertises when and where the next cash mob will be. Cash mob at Queen Anne Heart advertises its cash mob target in chalk on the pavement.

Chagrin Hardware in Ohio had so many customers when it was mobbed in 2012, the credit card machine had to be reset. The community flocked to Petosa’s Family Grocer in Edmonds, Washington after flood damage.

It is a simple concept. Shop local, buy from local shops to keep the local economy alive. And the initiative has support from large multinational companies too.

Throughout July, American Express is encouraging everyone to support local shops. It is running an initiative for July in encouraging you to ‘shop small’. Register your Amex card, and spend £10 or more at a local shop. Amex will give you £5 credit per location for up to ten different shops cafes and restaurants. That’s £50 in credits just for shopping locally.

So why don’t you register, organise a Cash Mob in your area and help local businesses survive. After all, the independent shops, cafes and bars are the reason that you love living where you are.

So put some of your money into local businesses, and keep your local community alive.

Image Credit: Queen Anne Heart / Facebook

Eileen is a social media strategist and consultant at Amastra, a columnist at ZDNet and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact Eileen to find out how she can elevate your brand and help your business become more social.

Mars crowdsources new colour coatings for M&M’s in Facebook campaign

M&M’s has allowed its fans to choose the colours that they want to see in M&M’s packs.  It turned to social media to poll its fans on its Facebook page.Their choices were sold in limited edition bags throughout December.


‘From December 2011 through January 2012, M&M’S Brand asked their community of more than 2.5 million Facebook fans to decide which combination of chocolate shell colours should be featured together in their new 8oz packages for a limited time. When the votes were tallied, the winning colours included three existing fan favourites – blue, red and green – as well as three new colours – purple, aqua and dark pink. The vibrant new M&M’S colour mix will be featured in 8 oz. M&M’S Milk Chocolate and Peanut pouches, available in select stores later this month and nationwide next month.

"M&M’S fans have always been very passionate about the colours of our delicious chocolate candies," said Roy Benin, Chief Consumer Officer, Mars Chocolate North America.  "This election year was the perfect opportunity to allow our fans to express their opinions about their favourite colours – and we are excited to create this new M&M’S colour mix based on their response.  While the outcome provided an even split between traditional favourites and bold new options, we’re sure fans will have fun debating the choices with every bite."

The winning colours were green, blue, red, purple, dark pink and aqua according to confectionary news


Eileen is a social social media strategist and consultant at Amastra, a columnist at ZDNet and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact Eileen to find out how she can elevate your brand and help your business become more social.

Flora cuisine crowdsources new recipe book

imageFlora, the healthy spread has turned to its Facebook page for inspiration. It has created a Lets get cooking cookbook and is giving away copies of the book on its Facebook page after a competition earlier this year.

You have until 26th October to enter to win for one of 750 copies on Facebook. You can also have a look at the crowdsourced recipes and download a soft copy.

Flora chose 30 copies from over 500 entries received during its Facebook competition.  It is now asking for ‘bite-sized’ recipe reviews on either its Twitter account or directly onto the Flora website.

The recipe book coincides with a set of boards on Pinterest, activity on its new Twitter account and campaign based activity on its Facebook page, designed to aid engagement with its fans. Flora has had a Facebook page since March 2010 and is extending its reach across other social platforms.

Crowdsourcing ideas such as recipes means additional engagement through social pages.  Getting the community involved and sharing recipes on platforms such as Pinterest ensures brand awareness and recognition. This is a neat idea that can be repeated regularly to maintain engagement and interaction with the brand .

Crediting the winning recipes is a nice touch too – and will encourage others to enter – if they want their names in print when the next edition is released.

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Domino’s uses crowdsourcing to find innovation and ideas

Domino’s has empowered its user community to steer the direction of the brand by launching its new crowdsourcing app, ‘Think Oven’ on Facebook

Think Oven has 2 parts,’Projects’ and ‘Idea box’

The Project area encourages comments and suggestions around a current project – at the moment its around the Domino’s uniforms.  The Idea box is a place for suggestions – that might turn into future projects.


The idea mirrors the My Starbucks Idea project that has been running for some time now.  Although we celebrate community collaboration like this, Crowdsourced ideas are not new.

Back in the ‘olden days’ the company suggestions box had the potential to turn up some innovation. Now everything is done online. With voting, comments and suggestions enabled in the Domino’s app the brand can get a really good idea about what its fans really want.

Using the army of Facebook fans to garner ideas is a good move for Domino’s.  We are used to interacting on Facebook, we are much more likely to interact with the brand in this way.

Hopefully Domino’s will implement some of the better ideas and report on its success.. Perhaps more brands will take up the initiative and work towards getting better customer service levels, new products and a re-energised business…

Meanwhile, Domino’s… I have an idea… Smile

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Content strategy the Coca-Cola way

Coca-Cola has disclosed its content and creative strategy for the next phase of their journey which will take its key brands up to  its goal in 2020.

The intention is to move from creative excellence to content excellence. Goals are to:

  • Create ideas so contagious that they can not be controlled
  • Through telling stories they will provoke conversations that they can earn a disproportionate share of popular culture
  • Create a conversational model centred around brand stories to create ideas, provoke conversations that coca-cola can act and react upon
  • Harness the distribution of creativity.  Coca-cola has observed that user generated content outnumbers coca-cola generated content on its brands
  • Respond to the on demand culture where consumers can turn their demands on 24 hours a day
  • Leverage existing ideas and behaviours used in other companies using social media
  • Develop a deeper emotional connection through storytelling

Moving from one way storytelling to dynamic storytelling is a challenge.  Creating a unified band idea needs system wide capabilities amongst technology platforms.  Storytelling needs to be at the heart of communities and cultures and should be captured across the brands

Brand stories should be captured and should demonstrate commitment to making the world a better place.  Without this the brand won’t succeed.

The 5 guiding principles Coca-Cola mention are worth noting:

  • Inspire participation amongst the very best
  • Connect these creative minds
  • Share the results of efforts
  • Continue development
  • Measure success

Chapter 2 of the Coca-Cola content creation story is here

Applying the 70:20:10 principles to content will ensure a good mix.  70% is bread and butter content, consuming less time and engaged broadly.  20% is medium risk content, which engages more deeply.  10% is high risk content which introduces brand new ideas for the next set of medium or low risk content idea.

By using conversation in an iterative way, the conversation can evolve and have longevity. using great measurement tools can ensure that the increased investment in social activities.  However, bringing the consumer conversation into the mix can make sure that each activity is exactly what the consumer wants. and can evolve to match changing needs.

Iteration not replication of the content will ensure the correct evolution of content and bring the company towards its 2020 ambition.

If Coca-cola can do this successfully – then their ideas could also be adapted for use in your own business.

It’s certainly worth a try

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Quirky: Using influence to create new products

I like the idea of using your influence to contribute to and create new ideas and products.  New York based start-up Quirky allows you to submit an idea, have it reviewed and evaluated by the community, and based on their feedback, either refine and redesign the product, or take it forward into production.

The web site also encourages social sales in addition to direct sales.  Users are more likely to purchase a product where they’ve influenced product design or manufacture either directly or indirectly.


There are some great ideas on the site already too – like this cord grabber to stop your cables falling off the desk.  There are related products to buy too.

Will this new way of product design evolve using social collaboration?  Internally, it would certainly get round the interminable product review meetings that companies have.  Meetings where half the team are pushing for their component to be included in the mix and the other half processing their email and not contributing to the meeting.

Perhaps your design could fall victim to the Wikipedia model, where any changes are instantly reverted by the page owner and new ideas are drowned in a sea of conformity.

Or are we poised to change the whole way that products are created – and allow innovation to lead the way?

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Crowdsourcing works: Producing the mobile 3G map of the UK

Rory Cellan Jones at the BBC has done an interesting experiment using crowdsourcing to discover the true coverage of 2G and 3G in the UK.

They produced a mobile app for Android, and asked users to download it to their phones.  They then collected usage data about mobile data coverage.

The results appeared to show differences from published coverage of data.  Here’s the map of the data showing coverage in my area… Unfortunately my coverage veers from 2G to no coverage.  Damn you purple square!


But even so, I’m in a good area compared with the rest of the UK.  What makes this survey interesting is:

Crowdsourcing works even without monetary reward. The community wanted to contribute to the test and 44,600 volunteers downloaded the app and voluntarily used it to collect data to upload the the BBC

Crowdsourcing works if there is media involvement in the campaign.  I heard about this on the radio, the website and the blog.  Announcements across several social channels spread the word

Crowdsourcing works if there is value in the end goal.  The map of 3G coverage in the UK was the result.  You can now say you contributed to the sum of this knowledge (if you downloaded the app)

Other companies use crowdsourcing too – The Geeks are sexy blog has a visual explanation of crowdsourcing showing several other companies that have benefitted from crowdsourcing. 

Perhaps it would work for your business too?

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

The London riots: Using social media as a force for good


An amazing, terrifying image of a woman jumping from a burning building in Croydon last night. Image credit: GSandhu

It’s hard to know what to write this morning. 

My Twitter stream is full of comments about last nights riots in London and truly terrifying images like the one above.  Last night, the news streams were vilifying social media, and especially BlackBerry for their BBM private messaging system which could have been used to organise further outbreaks. The Evening Standard blamed Twitter for the riots (thanks Tac for the photo).  The Guardian speculated that BlackBerry Messenger played a key role in the riots and the Telegraph talked about how messenger was used to plan two nights of looting. RIM offered to help the police ‘in any way we can’ but in the main social media was being vilified for spreading of information used to incite further unrest.  All seemed gloomy.  all seemed to point to the use of social media as a force to incite the masses.  Social media platforms were blamed for the rapid spread of riots.


This morning, the same social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are now being used for a completely different reason. 


London folk have organised a cleanup of areas affected by the riots.  Normal community spirited people.  The community cleanup program has a Wiki for the clean up, which is regularly updated with locations and times of cleanup.  Communities come together and respond to the the riots with #riotcleanup.  

Ordinary people with camera phones are uploading images of those involved in the riots.

They are uploading photos and videos onto Facebook pages like Catch a Looter.  The Catch a Looter Tumblr site is filling up with photos and videos of looters involved in raiding shops and businesses.  There are many Riot Clean up pages on Facebook showing great community spirit.

The Metropolitan police has uploaded photos of rioters to their flickr Stream and there are some Twitter accounts which have now been deleted appearing in the #nameandshame stream. The hashtag #riotcleanup is trending worldwide – with information flooding the stream that is too quick to read.

The community in London is using social media for good.

The same online social behaviour which was slammed last night for inciting riots, is now being praised for helping to restore balance and order. 

Real time information, images and videos are being uploaded to attempt to find those involved in the destruction last night.

Social media may have had a role to play in the riots – but it also has a greater role in the clean up and restoration of order afterwards. 

It has also a positive role in the identification of looters, and has helped the police do their jobs to identify the rioters and hopefully bring them to justice.



This Tweet from Mcsleazy seems to capture it all really.

*** for those of you reading this blog from outside of the UK, The Wombles are furry characters who keep the streets of London clean***

Eileen Brown is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Using crowdsourcing for farming, revenue generation and advice

Tapping in to the collective knowledge of the Internet is something that business communities have taken advantage of for some time.  Forums, help desk communities, Q&A sites all tap into the collective knowledge of the crowd.  But how do you actually make any money from your connections?  Knowledge is given for free, advice sought, connections and discussions made.  But not revenue.


Well the National Trust in the UK has hit upon an innovative way to tap into the collective knowledge of the community of experts and earn enough revenue to run the farm for a year.  This is not Farmville or a virtual game.  It’s a real farm attached to Wimpole Hall – a National Trust property in Cambridge. The project is called MyFarm.

Its an ambitious project.  They want 10,000 farmers, or members of the community, to each pay £30 membership subscription for a year.  That’s potential revenue of £300,000 per year to run the farm.  They get to make decisions on the farm.  They’re not easy decisions either.

In addition to deciding what crops to grow and where the community will have the say on which cow gets slaughtered and when, whether the sheep have their tails docked.  Every major decision on the farm will be opened up for discussion.  Here’s the trailer for the initiative.

MyFarm at Wimpole Hall

There are videos for voting – for example whether to sow the grass seed or not and ‘farmers’ are introduced to the financial implications of making a wrong decision.  Crops might fail.  It might not rain. it might rain too much.  It might freeze.  The Weeds might smother the crops.  We all know what to do.  or do we?  Getting the crowd to do some work for you.  Its a very good idea.

On the site the polls and discussion threads are active – although with the project in its early stages, there are a few teething troubles at the moment. Nothing that can’t be sorted out if the momentum is maintained and the project keeps moving forward in this collaborative way.

Its a great way of generating revenue for the farm.  Its a great way of getting people involved with actually where their food comes from and the challenges of growing the materials for food. It’s a great way of keeping people involved using the social tools that they engage with already.  Blogs and YouTube videos, forums and polls keep people engaged and active.

And it helps people know where their food actually comes from.  Not from the supermarket in the chill cabinet.  Not from McDonalds or Pizza Hut.  From farms.

And unlike Farmville, this is real life community farming.  Real life decisions made by the community.

Just like they should.

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Strategic Value of Social Media workshop


Image credit: flickr

I’m delivering a strategic workshop in London showing you how to get your social media strategy up and running and aligned with your business.   So many social media courses focus on the tools used and focus very much on the how to.  I’m going to look at the evolution of Web 2.0 and talk about why your strategy is so important to your business. 

This course will benefit decision makers in your organisation who want to implement social media correctly throughout the business – avoiding the pitfalls and challenges that companies without a strategy have encountered.

This is an intensive session that incorporates subjects covered in my strategy and architecture workshops for clients.  It will give you comprehensive guidance on the steps you need to take to get things right first time.


This session is a one day workshop in Uxbridge and the session price includes a signed copy of my book for every attendee.  Here are the session details:


The Strategic Value of Social Media: Changing the face of customer and partner connections  

Social media is not a fad. This is not something that will pass you or your company by. Social media has far reaching effects that will permeate into every business, reaching all job roles. It is worldwide and pervasive. The new way of communicating will not go away. So what are you doing about it? We will discuss strategic practices from leading companies, review what other company leaders in B2B and B2C are doing today to integrate community marketing and social media to engage, share and drive conversations with customers and partners online. You will gain insights on how to leverage community, engagement, marketing and using social components to drive your marketing efforts to capture mindshare and increase customer satisfaction. We will start to define your outline implementation plan to include advocates and community influencers and consider cross team roles and responsibilities to execute your strategy.

The workshop will cover:

  • How to use social networking as a business enabler to generate business impact
  • Defining your social community strategy and engagement framework
  • Security and privacy,
  • Policies and guidelines
  • Social commerce and Social CRM Issues, reputation management and crisis management
  • Tools and strategies to amplify your brand

Benefits of attending
This workshop will help you achieve your goals using social media and Web 2.0 to find and engage with customers, identify your influencers and gain advocates for your brand. You learn how to improve satisfaction and perception about your brand and create a vibrant community using Social Media to amplify your message and improve the quality of your connection to your customers.

I’m only running a couple of sessions of this class, so I’d urge you to take advantage of this opportunity and leave with a workable and effective framework for your strategy and a social action plan for your business.