Trada has more than 1,500 people available for such work; each ad campaign can require five to 20 contributors. After passing a basic certification test, a worker has to accomplish three out of five goals for a customer before gaining access to more campaigns. One such worker is Jeff Yin, who was a laid-off climate scientist when a friend recommended that he sign up with Trada in 2009. He’s currently working on about 30 campaigns and makes about $4,000 a month working 30 hours a week. “It’s a way I can learn about Internet business and get great experience in pay-per-click advertising,” says Yin, who hopes to pursue his own Internet business someday.
In addition to attracting the right crowd, a crowdsourcing platform has to provide incentives to do what a company wants people to do, says Niel Robertson, Trada’s CEO. Aside from offering monetary compensation, Trada tries to develop a strong sense of community, making use of game elements to keep workers interested. They can earn points that bring them into “levels” and get public displays of their reputation ranking. “You can never tell a group what you want them to do; you have to incent them,” Robertson says. “I think people are surprised by how much curation goes into it.”
Building reputations and discouraging anonymity also help promote successful collaboration, says Robertson. In Trada, no one is allowed to work anonymously. “If you run a public process that’s not anonymous and curate the crowd, good content builds on top of itself,” he says.
While Trada builds a specialized crowd, other crowdsourcing providers are taking a different route: they offer to create custom-made crowds. One such service provider is called Chaordix. “Crowd recruitment shouldn’t be underestimated,” says Randy Corke, the company’s vice president of business development. “We create different crowds for each client [and] can implement different models.” Some models encourage collaboration between participants in a crowd, for example, while other models keep the crowdsourced work secret.
When the University of Oxford asked for help brainstorming ways to help reduce maternal mortality in developing countries, Chaordix needed to find doctors, nurses, and midwives in those countries. It helped find medical and research organizations outside Oxford to reach out to. The company and the university also encouraged Oxford medical students going on internships in developing countries to hand out surveys and invitations to participate in the crowd. Chaordix also mines websites and uses social-media tools like Facebook and Twitter to recruit people.
“In many cases the companies we work with already have the seeds of their crowd,” says Corke. For instance, companies might have lists of potential participants in newsletter lists or customer loyalty programs. “If they don’t, then we work with them to determine the characteristics of people we should invite into the crowd,” he adds. People possessing a certain skill or knowledge, for example, or a particular demographic might be useful, but Corke says Chaordix also looks for diversity—geographic or otherwise. “Generally speaking with crowdsourcing,” he says, “the more diverse the crowd, the stronger the results.”