When you hear the word "crowdsourcing," what do you think of? Is it something anonymous? Something impersonal? Not anymore. Talking to—and more importantly, listening to—our writer community has helped us innovate solutions to improve our platform and our customer experience.
Crowd or Community?
The concept of Community with a capital "C" hasn't been around for very long. One of the first brands to recognize the need for and power of community was one I think you've probably heard of: Apple's Ellen Petry Leanse talks about building community around the brand back in 1985, when Apple was going through some tough times.
Leanse describes a moment when Apple users were excited by the products, but not receiving the support or improvements that they wanted. In response, she did something that was pretty radical at the time: she started calling users directly.
"A community will hold you accountable to be the best that you can be," she says. "...They care enough to be a thorn in your side."
Fast forward to 2018, when you won't catch any self-respecting startup without a Community Manager. We all know it's important to talk to our customers about what they want, but crowdsourcing offers another community that tends to get underrated. We have hundreds of writers who look at, work on, and interact with our platform every day. And there are also thousands of posts on our writer forum each month.
We know that crowdsourcing can sometimes get a bad rap (thanks, Uber...), but this isn't just a faceless crowd. It's a community and a highly engaged one, at that.
Why Ask for Community Feedback?
Since our founding, one of BlogMutt's core missions as a company has been providing an adaptable and reliable income source for talented writers in a tough industry. We also have a platform that is built to support the power of relationships. A unique feature of BlogMutt is that customer feedback is completely transparent: writers can not only see each other's work, they can also see all previous customer comments on that work.
TopCoder founder Jack Hughes wrote that "competing one moment and learning from one another the next is the basis of what we believe will significantly increase the pace of innovation... It is also the basis for something else; it is the basis of community."
And like our partners at TopCoder, we also understand that this community extends to our in-house staff. How we interact with, learn from, and treat our writers directly impacts the quality of content that our customers receive.
In some ways, this is simple: if you're a talented, experienced freelance writer looking for a new gig, we think it's obvious that you'd rather work for a platform where staff knows your name and where they respect your ideas.
But knowing and talking to our writers isn't just about keeping our writers happy. It's also about building a better platform and a better customer experience.
Our writers know our platform better than anyone. For some, BlogMutt is their full time job. For others, BlogMutt fills in the gaps between high-end private clients or adds a creative outlet alongside another career. These writers know the industry, they know our customers, and they're personally invested—some quite literally—in the success of our company.
In 2017, we launched a program to talk to as many of our writers as possible. We now host quarterly feedback sessions for the whole community, and bring together writers for focus groups on individual projects.
Through these feedback sessions, we've learned a lot about our community, but we've also learned a lot more than that. Writers have come up with ideas for how to improve our platform, our admin efficiency, and even our customer experience. Here are 4 ways that writer community feedback has helped us improve customer experiences in the recent past.
4 Ways Feedback Has Improved Customer Experiences
1. Custom post lengths
We used to offer posts in 4 word count categories: 300 words, 600 words, 900 words, and 1200 words. And while multiples of 300 offered a simple model, sometimes you just need a post that's 750 words. Today, after some encouragement from our writers, we offer custom post lengths from 300-3000. More than 10% of new accounts have since opted for a custom length subscription.
2. Room to breathe (and use up your credits!)
If you decide to take a break from your subscription, we'll be sad to see you go! But you can thank writers for ensuring that you have a full 30 days to use any remaining credits.
3. Improved editing
We recently released a brand new line-by-line editing tool to make it quicker and easier for you to request edits. Writers have told us over and over again that they're happy to use your feedback to take a 4-star post to a 5-star post, if you'll let them. Writer requests for more and clearer edit requests helped inspire this new feature.
4. Better business information
Even a great writer can struggle to create a great piece of content if they're missing key information. Try writing a compelling email without knowing who the recipients will be. ...Or writing an SEO-focused blog post without knowing the keyword you're supposed to target.
Writers know better than anyone what they need in their toolkit to be successful. That's why, with a little help from our community, we've added more ways for you to tell us about your business. Learn more here about expanded options for sharing information about your audience, your brand voice, and examples of content you'd like to emulate.
Crowdsourcing doesn't have to be faceless: when you encourage people to participate in your company's growth and progress, they not only understand the challenges you face, but they also become even stronger advocates for your success. Innovation requires a diversity of ideas and perspectives, and through valuing our community, we've fostered a crowd of 3000+ writers who we can turn to for ideas and feedback. What will they think of next?