User-Initiated Crowdsourcing

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= does not depend on being kickstarted by a company. What is necessary here is simply the availability of platforms suitable to support crowdsourcing processes [1]


Katarina Stanoevska-Slabeva:

"According to the basic definition of crowdsourcing, its main initiators are companies. However, existing online platforms which support the creation sharing and collaborative creation of user generated content in many cases provide suitable environments where users can become the initiators of crowdsourcing as well. This can be illustrated on the example of the relaunch of ‘Snacketti-Zwiebelringe’, the onion rings product of the company Zweifel in the Swiss market (see also Kowalski, 2011 and Lüscher, 2010).

In summer 2009, two Facebook users established independent of each other a group on Facebook dedicated to the request and wish to have the product Snacketti-Zwiebelringe (onion rings) back on the Swiss market. The same product was produced earlier by the company Zweifel. It was taken off the market 14 years ago because the market was not considered big enough by the company. Within 1 year of the launch of the groups, the groups were able to recruit together 12,000 ‘likers’ and contributors. The voices requesting the onion rings back on the market became louder and more demanding.

The company Zweifel at first only observed what was going on at the two groups. As the groups became more popular and were able to recruit a critical mass of users, they started to communicate with the groups and considered the request on strategic level. As soon as the company started to think about the request of the users on a strategic level, they started also to communicate the different steps of the process within the two groups. Finally the users were informed that Zweifel has decided to start the production of onion rings and to introduce the product again to the Swiss market. In September 2010, 380 users, members of the two groups, participated on the opening event of the production of the onion rings.

This example of the onion rings is not the only one, where users initiate and coordinate crowdsourcing processes. In the same period in 2010 for example, about 20,000 Facebook users requested and were able to bring back on the market the product ‘Yogi Drink Apfel’ produced by the company Emmi. These two and other similar examples show that crowdsourcing might not be the privilege only of companies. Users empowered by Social Media platforms as well as quick and efficient communication means increasingly take over the initiative. Even more, specialized intermediaries such as are emerging that intermediate the process of crowdsourcing among users. Thereby, the initiatives of the users are not limited to co-creation and crowdsourcing of knowledge, ideas and information. For example, the user-founders of claim to build the car of the future and have attracted a community of users that support them by providing car designs and other contributions. Users increasingly take over the initiative and create ideas for products that they want and impose their requirements on the companies.

In the future, it might be possible that there will be a growing number of examples of this kind of user initiated crowdsourcing which is initiated independent of the companies. How can companies profit and basically take advantage of this development? First of all, these processes don't take place in an organized way as the typical crowdsourcing initiated by companies. They pop up and can become a big issue per chance, depending on the fact if the initiative by single users gets enough supporters in Social Media. Second, such independent initiatives might not be completely in line with the strategy of the company. While company initiated crowdsourcing usually originates out of the strategic directions of the company, user initiated crowdsourcing is independent of the strategic visions of a company. Given this, it can impose on the company requirements which have never been considered by the company. The positive aspects of this are that the company gets a clear view on what customers want.

Another aspect of user initiated crowdsourcing that might become a problem for companies is the lack of awareness for it. In order to become aware of such initiatives, it is necessary that companies have a very efficient monitoring of Social Media in place. With the help of Social Media monitoring, they can identify such initiatives early enough in order to be able to be prepared and answer in an efficient way to the requests posed by the users." (


Katarina Stanoevska-Slabeva:

"The example of user initiated crowdsourcing shows that the user is changing and his role in crowdsourcing processes is evolving. From pure solution provider, the user is becoming the initiator of crowdsourcing processes. This process is enabled on the one hand with the communication and coordination capabilities of Social Media but also increasingly by specialized crowdsourcing platforms as CrowdTogether. These platforms are, targeting the end consumer as crowdsourcing initiator. Furthermore, not only the creation of digital goods and information is subject to user initiated crowdsourcing but also crowdsourcing for physical products.

The question now is how companies can take advantage of this new role of users in crowdsourcing. One potential scenario might be as follows: The user in the role of initiator of crowdsourcing can become a new intermediary for companies. Instead of the company initiating, guiding and coordinating crowdsourcing process, this can be outsourced or delegated to lead-users who are able to attract a community and work on the development of the products and services. This kind of relationships is similar to relationships that are currently established by companies and open source software development communities.

The crowd harnessing example shows that besides providing input in especially dedicated crowdsourcing platforms, users are also providing a lot of contributions in form of knowledge, experience, opinions, and statements in various other communication channels which are supporting and enabling a participative user. The question is if this kind of bottom up contribution is relevant enough to be harnessed and the basis for a bottom-up crowdsourcing process based on principles of curation.

Both types of user initiated crowdsourcing are based on a new role of the user and can have new implication for companies and the society." (

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