Crowdsourcing your creativity

How can arts organisations use digital channels to collaborate and co-create with audiences? Our Digital Doctor Cat Leaver gives her insight on creative crowdsourcing

Digital technology has revolutionised user behaviour and consumption, empowering our audiences and presenting new challenges to us as marketers. With that, however, comes a new opportunity. An opportunity to discover real-time, authentic insights into who your audiences are and what makes them tick.

Nowadays blogs and forums allow your audiences to be authors and critics, smartphones make them photographers and filmmakers, social media gives them a platform to perform upon and the internet gives them a global voice. Organisations are no longer the core content creators, users are, and this presents incredible scope to unleash creativity.

Developing a collaborative environment, which closes the gap between your organisation and your audiences, augments your capacity to gain insight. This may involve nurturing active online communities via key social media channels. For example, conducting live Google Hangout interviews or discussions whereby audiences can simultaneously ask you questions via chat and shape the direction of the conversation. You could even create Hangout groups involving key influencers from your audience, who meet virtually on a monthly basis to discuss ideas, give feedback on events and create stories around your content.

Alternatively, you could provide some form of exclusivity for your audiences, or a platform for them to contribute to your creative process and feel valued. Empowering your audience, by providing them with permission to pin to a particular themed Pinterest board for example, means you invite your audiences to interact with you and input to your content. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so see what you can learn from pictures contributed by your users. This may allow you to delve deeper into what particular themes, emotions, storylines and characters etc, really mean to your audiences.

Read: Top digital trends for creatives in 2014

Hashtagged content across social channels (including Twitter, Google+ and now Facebook) is a great way to connect individuals on a topic and allow them to contribute to a bigger conversation. As more social networks adopt this content aggregation and filtering technique, you can begin to use a cross-pollination approach to drive traffic between channels and boost user-generated content. This could be an interesting tool when applied to developing storylines: for example, with your audiences contributing to the script or plot, or simply voicing their opinions about a performance/event.

Another digital tool earning a lot of attention from big brands at the moment is Vine. A simple-to-use app, which allows users to easily create and share short looped videos. Vine presents opportunities for your audiences to audition or become actors in your play or film, to provide interesting video content to project into exhibition or performance spaces, or simply to create fun user-generated content for your digital channels.

In today’s digital ubiquity, these are just some of the countless tools at your disposal to encourage co-creation and collaboration. Opening up a dialogue with your audiences is a fantastic way to foster success and build a loyal and organic brand community. It takes the critical ‘understanding your audience’ factor to a whole new level, where you don’t just know who your audience is and where they are, but you are actively involved in a two-way conversation with them in which you are constantly learning more about them as individuals. By doing so you dramatically increase your chances of success – finding out exactly what your audiences want so that you can create relevant, timely and powerful content, both in terms of your marketing communications and your actual service offering.

Cat’s top tips for co-creation

1. It’s all about listening. The most important skill any good marketer can learn is to really listen to what your audiences are saying, including the subtext and context around which they’re saying it in.

2. Make your customers feel like their input is valued and mean it.

3. Use the insights that you gain! All too often organisations fail to translate data into meaningful actions.

4. Thank those who take the time to engage with you – their time is valuable.

Image: RSC’s A Midsummer Night’s Dreaming 

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