This post by guest blogger Ville Miettinen appears as part of our series Small Business 500

tips for small businessAs one of 2011’s most popular buzzwords, today crowdsourcing is a well known concept. Even my mother now understands what I do with my days (sort of). While many of the supposed ‘crowdsourcing’ examples discussed in the media could be just as easily described as old-fashioned co-operation, there are also now a number of genuinely innovative, crowd-based solutions that may be able to save your business money and help it grow. Here are five ways crowdsourcing can help your small business:

1. Boost innovation and product development

Crowdsourcing can be a great way to generate new ideas, enhance innovation, and bring new products to market quickly and cheaply (assuming it’s managed properly). P&G, which was a pioneer in this use of crowdsourcing, currently relies on outside collaboration for half of its innovations. If you’re still unconvinced about the crowd’s innovative power, take a look at what Innocentive has achieved.

2. Take care of your design needs

If you’re willing to take the time to provide feedback and guidance, using the crowd can be an effective and economic way to facilitate the design of branding, logos and almost anything else you can think of. Along with the famous 99Designs, there are now a wide variety of platforms that can link you with a huge pool of talented designers to give you a new corporate brand, website or even company rap song to sing at team building days (don’t blame me if your staff all quit afterwards).

3. Handle those small, annoying jobs that computers are hopeless at (and you hate)

Hardware and software has come a long way, but there are still lots of things that computers are not very good at, such as tagging photos, translating your twitter feed and interpreting handwriting. I’m biased, but I think that as far as businesses go, this is one of the most powerful applications of crowdsourcing. Distributed labor platforms can now manage these small jobs for you cheaply, quickly and accurately.

4. Source funds

If your startup needs some extra money to pay for all its new crowdsourcing solutions, look no further than the crowd. Sites like Kickstarter have popularized crowdfunding as a way to raise modest amounts of money, mainly by offering cool merchandise in return for donations. If your business is boring but potentially profitable, there is hope for you too: with the recent passage of the Jobs Act, you can now offer the public equity in your startup, opening a new world of fundraising opportunities (and wallets).

5. Take care of anything else at all that can be completed online

If you need help with something that can be done online, but can’t find a solution for it above, don’t panic! Whether you need people to fill out a survey or ‘Like’ your Facebook page, the crowd is ready and waiting. All you need to do is add a job description to the 260,000 ads on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. If you’re on a budget and looking for something creative, you might also like to try Fiverr. As our rap song I mentioned above showed, the results may not always be brilliant, but at $5 you can’t say that they’re overpriced!

crowdsourcing-small-businessVille Miettinen is a serial entrepreneur and technologist. He’s been programming since the early 80′s, and has made his career in high-tech in the field of 3D computer graphics. Wili is a world traveller and a semi-professional photographer. Ville is the CEO of Microtask.

@wili

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