How to build a successful crowdsourced business

Insightful data and building loyalty among your contributors is the key to building a successful crowdsourced business. Relaying the ingredients of his organisation’s success as a crowdsourced entity, Shutterstock VP Gerd Mittmann told the 2014 Digital Innovators’ Summit that continued technological innovation, strong principles and insightful data mining has been essential.

The business was launched ten years ago as an online creative marketplace for crowdsourced images but has since grown to have more than one million customers across 150 countries.

Mittmann said: “Data is crucial. It drives everything we do in the company. And it’s not just driving us. We use data to inform our contributors what type of photography works, what is popular and what is successful. So it is driving their activity, which in turn helps us to grow.

“Data is also extremely valuable in allowing us to identify trends. We have seen in the past year, for example, that customers want more authenticity in images, so we are working to that and we are using it to inform and educate our contributors. Data is at the heart of that.”

While data has been crucial to Sutterstock’s success, Mittmann added that setting standards and principles around the business is also essential to successful crowdsourcing.

“Crowdsourcing doesn’t mean outsourcing,” he said. “It’s not a case of saying ‘send us your images and we will sell them for you’. It’s about education and making sure our contributors understand where the value is.”

As such, photographers aiming to contribute to Shutterstock must in the first instance submit ten images from ten different shoots – and seven must meet the standards required for them to be accepted as contributors.

In addition, Mittmann added that successful crowdsource businesses will be those that create loyalty among their contributors.

“There are some principles that are very important if you want to succeed. Always be honest, always be fair to your crowd,” he said. “At Shutterstock, we always go back to potential contributors and tell them why we didn’t accept them. For those we do accept, we do not cut commissions. Those principles have created loyalty.”

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