crowd sourcing on twitter

In a recent article, we discussed how powerful the process of A/B split testing can be when it comes to making measurable, data-based improvements to your website.  However, there is a simpler way to get the feedback needed to make your website as effective as possible.  Instead of waiting weeks for your split test to gain statistical significance, why not take your website questions directly to your most loyal followers on Twitter?

As an example, instead of testing two different page versions with a split test, why not simply ask your followers which version they prefer?  This process – known colloquially as “crowd sourcing” – can provide a wealth of information on your followers’ interests and preferences that can ultimately be used to make your site more profitable.

Of course, the crowd-sourcing process isn’t an ideal solution for every website question (though, in many instances, you’ll be amazed at the caliber of information this practice can generate).  Read on to learn more about the situations in which crowd-sourcing is most effective, how to use this method to improve your own site and what you need to be aware of when utilizing information gleaned in this manner.


Types of information that can be generated via crowd sourcing

First of all, while it’s important to be aware that not all types of website information can be generated through crowd sourcing, there are actually many more opportunities than most webmasters are aware of.  You’ve probably already asked your Twitter followers to share your posts or re-tweet your messages, but why not ask them to provide any of the following types of information as well?


Future blog post topics

Running a successful blog can be a struggle, as the process of coming up with topic ideas that will resonate with your readers can be quite time-consuming.  So why not minimize the hassle of this initial brainstorming period by asking your followers what they’d like to read – rather than rely on your own haphazard guesses?

In this case, something as simple as a tweet that reads, “What topic would you like to see me cover next on the blog?” can generate a treasure trove of great ideas that’ll keep you flush with content for the weeks or months to come.


Future promotion/giveaway ideas

In many cases, the success of a promotion relies on crafting compelling enough terms to get website visitors to take action.  Even something as simple as offering customers a 20% off coupon rather than a free shipping voucher can make the difference between a successful campaign and a flop.

You can certainly test this type of promotion using A/B split testing (both on your website and in your email marketing campaigns), but why not just ask your followers which promotion or giveaway idea they’d prefer.  You might be surprised at the amount of valuable feedback you’ll receive by crowd-sourcing your site’s content in this way.

crowd sourcing promotion ideas


Future product/service offerings

In the past, deploying new product or service offerings was typically preceded by a period of expensive market research that included everything from personal surveys to in-person focus groups.  However, the immediacy of the contact that many businesses now have with their followers via social media has changed this process.  Instead of wasting time and money on lengthy market research campaigns, businesses can now take their questions directly to their customers and get valuable answers back in just a few days.

So if you’re thinking about launching a new product or service, why not try posing variants of any of the following questions to your Twitter followers?

  • What is the one “must have” feature you’d like to see on our next product?
  • If we offered [this particular type of service], what would you be willing to pay for it?
  • Would you be more interested in buying [proposed product A] or [proposed product B]?

Not only will this process save you time and money, it also increases feelings of ownership amongst respondents, making them more likely to purchase your products or services in the future.


Feedback on proposed website changes

Similarly, if you’re thinking of making major changes to the way your website looks or operates, you can get feedback from actual site visitors much more quickly using the crowd-sourcing approach on Twitter than you can using traditional A/B split testing (which typically requires a test period of at least two weeks in order to reach statistical significance).

To use this particular process, try posing any of the following questions to your Twitter followers:

  • What’s the one thing that’s missing from our website?
  • If we added [this new website feature], would you use it?
  • If we removed [some other feature], would you miss it?

Obviously, these are only a few of the different types of information you can generate using this method – though each of these options represents a great place to get your feet wet with the process.  Experiment with the specific types of content described above, and then expand your crowd-sourcing procedure to gather information on other subjects that are important to your business.


How to crowd-source your site’s content

No matter what type of information you decide to generate using the process of crowd-sourcing, there are a few basic guidelines you’ll want to keep in mind to make your queries as successful as possible:

  • Determine when your followers are most active – Unfortunately, given the amount of noise in the Twitterverse, it’s entirely possible that your crowd sourcing question will go unnoticed by the majority of your followers.  To minimize this problem, use the free tool Tweriod to determine when your followers are most active on this social site and then time your questions to go live during these periods.
  • Keep questions simple ­– Twitter is known as a micro-blogging platform for good reason.  Users don’t visit the site to write out lengthy updates or to contribute more than passing thoughts.  For this reason, it’s important to keep your questions simple in order to maximize the number of responses you receive.  You’re far more likely to get useful information if you ask for a single blog post idea or the answer to a “Yes/No” question than if you waste users’ time requesting extensive feedback.


requesting feedback through crowd sourcing


Crowd-sourcing caveats

As mentioned earlier, there are a few limitations to the crowd-sourcing process that you’ll want to be aware of.  While it is possible to generate tons of useful information using this approach, it’s also important to keep in mind that crowd-sourcing isn’t the “be all, end all” solution for every single market research need.

Specifically, you’ll want to be aware of the following crowd-sourcing weaknesses:

  • Users don’t always know what they want – In some situations, asking followers for their feedback can introduce a level of bias that isn’t present in randomized split testing.  Take, for example, the idea of using pop-ups to gather email newsletter opt-ins.  If you ask your users whether the like having pop-ups on your site, they’ll probably say “No” – even if this feature has proven to be your most effective opt-in generation strategy.  Consider this limitation carefully when deciding what to crowd-source and what to split test.
  • Don’t bombard users with questions – Your social profiles shouldn’t be looked at as nothing more than a wealth of market research data.  If you want people to respond to your queries, you’ve got to be an active, engaging part of your industry’s social sphere as well.  Participate on Twitter like a normal person and try to limit your crowd-sourcing questions to no more than 5-10% of your total updates.
  • Consider the statistical significance of information generated – It’s also important to keep in mind that your active Twitter followers represent only a small part of your total brand following (especially in industries where social site usage is limited).  For this reason, it’s important to use the information generated via Twitter crowd-sourcing as one piece of a much larger puzzle and to avoid making substantial business changes based on this limited data set.

That – in a nutshell – is the process of crowd sourcing your website’s content using Twitter.  When used correctly, this practice can be an incredibly powerful tool for shaping both your website’s content and the products and services you offer – so get out there and start gathering feedback today!