If you’re like me, you often find yourself in a jam where you're in need of advice in a hurry. When this happens, I often rely on crowdsourcing to solve the issue.
There’s no shame with leaning on your peers for help. Whether you’re working on a business presentation and are hung-up on a slide, need a quick quote for this week's blog post or simply have a pressing question about your day-to-day work — we've all been there.
Co-workers can be great, but you can usually find more diverse opinions or get tips outside of your company's specific area of expertise if you cast your net further.
Crowdsourcing, or gathering info and opinions from a large group, has been made much easier and effective through the use of the social web. The real-time nature and the ability to connect with strangers of diverse backgrounds all across the world make these platforms a perfect fit for quick information-gathering.
I've found that most thought leaders who are active in social media are both approachable and willing. They can be very useful to answering your questions in a bind. You just need to know where to find them.
Here are my five favorite tactics when I’m looking for quick answers:
1) Twitter Chats
Twitter is often the go-to resource for people when they need to ask questions online. And why not? You can usually get answers within seconds, and strangers are totally okay with sharing their opinions. You can also immediately contact those who answered if you have follow-up questions. When you are looking to crowdsource, certainly start by asking your question via Twitter.
Schedule the question out a few times over the course of the day or week by using a tool like Buffer, to make sure you tap different followers who are signed in at different times. And don't forget to ask for a RT so your tweet can be retweeted and get in front of people who don’t already follow you. Many studies have been done and most prove that explicitly asking for a RT results in a much higher success rate.
Most people stop their efforts here. But you’ve only just begun.
My next suggestion is to research weekly Twitter chats that are relevant to your particular topic. Is your topic about pay-per-click advertising? Then make sure to jot down the times and days for #PPCChat, #SEOChat, and #mktgtalk. Here’s the full list of Twitter Chats. Uncover which Twitter Chats make sense for your question and plan to attend those this week.
When the chat begins, don’t get hasty. Most of the hour is usually devoted to a moderator asking questions and participants joining in with responses. However, towards the end, there is usually an "open mic" section where you can chime in with a plug of your company/business or shoot off a personal question. This is where you should take advantage. You have a captive audience of dozens, maybe even hundreds, of professionals who are fitting to give you feedback. Don’t waste your chance. Ask away.
2) LinkedIn Groups
LinkedIn had a feature a few years ago called "LinkedIn Answers." It was specifically made for people to solicit answers from the LinkedIn user base. I actually liked this tool and especially loved the ability to add a poll so users could quickly log a response and not have to worry about typing long-winded answers. Unfortunately, LinkedIn discontinued this service in 2013. They said it was due to lack of activity. Regardless, there is still a way to take advantage of all those great professionals on LinkedIn.
Based on the topic of your question, seek out a few different LinkedIn groups that are relevant. Make sure they have lots of members and have an active community (notice recent posts and comments). Join the group if it’s an open community, or if it’s a group that makes sense for your personal brand, and post your question. Make sure you select that you’d like to receive notifications if/when someone comments. Many members of these groups subscribe to daily or weekly notifications or emails, so your comment could come through for many people to see.
If you are already a member of many groups, and your question is relevant to one of them, you can skip the research step and get right to posting. Go to "Your Groups" homepage and you can enter in the discussion topic/question and easily share it with the group of your liking. Repeat the process to ask the same question to a different group. I’d suggest keeping this to a max of three groups so you aren’t seen as a spammer. Make sure you monitor your notifications if anyone comes to your aid with a comment.
3) Answer Sites
Quora came out of the gate strong a few years ago and then the hype faded fairly quickly. But you might be surprised to know that it is the most popular Q&A site today and has hundreds of millions of visits per month. Quite a few active users too. The requirement of a full account gives the site some credibility since you have to provide some details about yourself and can’t hide behind the "anonymous" handle. What’s cool too is that the site asks users to select their areas of interest.
As a user, I might acknowledge that I have some knowledge of punk music, the Dallas Cowboys, and digital marketing. Questions in those categories then will populate in my feed where I’ll be able to answer them. As a seeker of information, this ensures to me that those answering my question at least have some interest or expertise. So I can get some pretty decent responses.
Just sign in. Post your question (has to be in question format), add topics that are related to your question, and then publish. Ensure that your settings allow you to be notified when you start seeing responses. Now sit back and wait. Or, if you want, take a look at some of the other Q&A sites out there. WikiAnswers from Answers.com, reddit questions, and Yahoo! Answers operate in a similar way and can also be worthwhile to your crowdsourcing efforts.
Popular blogs continue to attract a great deal of comments, even in 2015. Different websites use different commenting platforms. I happen to really love the plugin/website Disqus. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s a blog commenting tool that makes it easy to track your comments. It does this by keeping your activity in one place. I can leave comments on any site that uses the Disqus plugin and the site will recall where those comments are and notify me if anyone has replied. I just have to sign in to my Disqus account and I can see the comments I’ve left and read the replies. This sure beats having to remember every site I’ve left comments on and going back to visit those pages to see if anyone responded to me.
As you’re crowdsourcing for expert opinions, find newly published blog posts and news articles that cover related topics to your question. Sign into the comment application using your Disqus account and work your question naturally into the comment area. Make sure it’s not out of left field – it still must be relevant to the above read. As people read the post over the next week, your comment will be seen by many readers and hopefully will lead to some high quality answers. In my experience, Disqus seems to be the most popular comment plugin with 2.5 million sites using it. But there are similar plugins out there like LiveFyre or IntenseDebate that can do this too, so you may need to create accounts elsewhere, beyond Disqus, if you find super fitting articles that you’d like to post a question in.
SurveyMonkey makes it super easy to create short polls and quizzes. Create an account, then follow the step-by-step instructions to create a very short survey that asks your question. I generally like to see surveys only have one question, but if you absolutely have to, you can include one or two more max. Don’t forget to ask for their names/titles if you are looking to gather a quote and need attribution. The survey shouldn’t take your friends longer than a few seconds to take.
Now you need to get it out to your contacts. We all have tons of email addresses in our contact list so use them wisely. Instead of mass emailing with a standard, boring paragraph of text, make it simple and straightforward, so it won’t take much time to read on their end. Make your subject line brief, polite and intriguing. For example, "Please Take My Poll." Then include a sentence about what you are doing. Provide the link for SurveyMonkey and thank them in advance. After sending out, you can access answers within your SurveyMonkey account, so you don’t have to worry about checking your emails. Share the SurveyMonkey link on your social media sites too. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will likely be your best bets.
None of us have all the answers. Despite a prestigious title, years of experience and an overpaid education, we often need to rely on others for help. I love crowdsourcing. With the many free tools available at our disposal, we can gather expert opinions quickly. Most of the time, you’ll have what you need by EOD and no later than the end of the week. Rely heavily on the network you’ve built over the years. And when someone reaches out to you for help with a question, be sure to lend a hand. What goes around, comes around.
What are some other sites or techniques you use to gather advice on short-notice? I’d love to know. List them below!