Community-Sourcing “100 Toys” — an Explosion in Online Engagement (Part II)

In my first post on Community-Sourcing 100 Toys I explained the process behind The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis project and shared about the surprising level of engagement it received. Get caught up, if you haven’t already!

What I found most intriguing about “100 Toys” was watching our first attempt at community-sourcing play out in surprising ways. Community-sourcing is different from crowdsourcing in that the organization has an existing relationship with that community segment, and consequently can make bigger asks in calls to action and expect higher levels of engagement. For 100 Toys, the initial goal was to reach out to our existing online community and ask them to share stories and collectively decide the top 20 toys that define childhood. But, what started out as community-sourcing among our loyal online visitors unexpectedly led to traditional forms of crowdsourcing when interest spread to include national and worldwide participation.

Because of the immense amount of participation, the dialogue between participants played out differently than we expected. We had hoped for additional banter in the comments of the story contributions, but this didn’t occur as much as we anticipated. In contrast, there were numerous instances where third-party blogs or Facebook pages posted about 100 Toys and prompted an overwhelming amount of dialogue. We’ll never know just how many radio stations and local newscasts mentioned us on air and then went to Facebook to continue the conversation — those that we did find always had comments in the hundreds!

In addition to 100 Toys serving as an example of community-sourcing, it also exemplified my recently-coined concept of open authority. Open authority is the coming together of curatorial expertise and open dialogue with collaborative communities. As I was completing my thesis and thinking through the premise of open authority, I was also helping to develop 100 Toys into a unique, social media-focused, community-curated project, but the two remained distinct in my mind. Looking back, it makes sense that they would overlap, but it took a blog post from non-profit marketing specialist Colleen Dilenschneider to bring it home for me: I wasn’t just theorizing open authority, but was living it out in my own museum.

This isn’t where the reflection on 100 Toys ends, however. The 100 Toys team has only begun to unpack the elements that led the project to be so popular. So far our list includes:

  • Diverse, cross-platform engagement: Participants could participate in different ways suited to their interests, causing lower barriers to submitting a contribution. The easy “vote” call to action got visitors to the site, but then led to further engagement (story-sharing). Content was shared on many platforms other than the website, including the blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, and Wikipedia.
  • Inter-generational & nostalgic: All ages were interested in participating, and entire families could take part in the voting and story-sharing. It was a relevant topic that produced opinions and, ultimately, memory sharing.
  • Driver of media & web traffic: The “list” concept made for easy and interesting headlines in the press, leading to the project’s vast reach. This level of press fostered a massive increase in traffic to our website.
  • Sharing the collection & community-curation: It prompted the digitization of a portion of the collection, and allowed favorite objects to be accessed and shared in new ways. Online visitors were also invested in the final rankings and were motivated by which objects would “make the cut” to be included in the on-site display case.

In the Children’s Museum’s next attempt at community-sourcing, we hope to increase the level of recurring engagement and deepen the dialogue between participants. This type of engagement may be the mythical unicorn of social media professionals, but I have a sense that because we came so close with 100 Toys… if we take these same elements and improve upon them, it just might be doable.

Photo: cc by-sa 3.0 The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Photo by Black Market


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