Crowdsourcing can be an effective means to tap into the so-called “wisdom of the crowd” to solve complex problems, stimulate innovation, slash the cost of research, encourage collaboration across organizational boundaries. Examples like Innocentive or IdeaScalev come to mind, but there are plenty of areas where crowdsourcing can help.
Usually it is applied ex-ante: when we recognize we cannot find a solution or we need an out-of-the-box one, we engage a community – whose size depends on the problem at hand to solve the problem.
However there is another use of crowdsourcing that serves a different purpose. Rather than engaging a crowd to come up with an idea, a solution or a position, or to further develop one that is at a very early stage, the crowd can be engaged after the idea or positions are cast in stone (hence ex-post), to seal it from external criticism.
This tactic can be used by enterprises that see one of their products or services under attack by consumers on different social media platforms, and unleash an army of followers that will praise the product, boost the ratings and aim at tilting the balance in favor of the enterprise.
It can be used by individuals too.
This can be done very tactfully, by just factually arguing in favor of the position: irrespective of the merit of that position, if there are enough followers who are available to support the individual, his critics are likely to be outnumbered.
It can be done less tactfully, in case the supporting crowd does not have enough elements to reinforce and defend the original position or the position is inherently weak. In this case the crowd, either spontaneously or building on a comment by the individual, will focus its attention on the critics, claiming an unfair attitude or even going as far as indirectly threatening of some form of legal retribution.
The main benefit of this defensive tactic is that the average personal bandwidth of people attending the discussion is often insufficient to grasp the origin of the discussion and even to discern about opposing viewpoints. If the debate is then colored by other allegations, attention may spike, but move even further away from the original topic.
The downside is that it is vulnerable to any sort of retrospective research that could highlight behavioral patterns by the enterprise or the individual.
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