With the rise of Pinterest and the rollout of Timeline for Facebook Pages, marketers are leveraging new media to build and strengthen their brands through user-generated content.  Whether it’s inviting consumers to express a certain lifestyle through images or promoting social conversations about a brand, the next generation of marketing will strategically harness the power of content created by the crowd in clever and compelling ways.

Having helped companies including Google, Zappos, and General Motors execute more than 200 campaigns, we know that creative crowdsourcing provides marketers with a reliable and effective tactic to involve fans and customers directly in a company’s brand. Here we outline three of ways this practice can benefit your marketing strategy.

Engaging Content. Creative crowdsourcing is a powerful tool to add to your library of shareable content. As content marketing has taken center-stage with people increasingly consuming and sharing more online than ever before, it’s critical to maintain a steady pipeline of fresh and authentic content to capture and maintain mindshare.  But it’s important to clarify that crowdsourcing can generate so much more than your next 30-second commercial. The practice can help marketers breathe life into conceptually challenging subject matter.

For example, the electronics and engineering company Siemens collected more than 110 documentary videos about the impact of sustainable technologies on urban living, which the company continues to use and repurpose for their online properties. As long as content remains king, marketers can develop high quality and engaging content through properly targeted and managed crowdsourcing campaigns.

Online WOM (word-of-mouth).  Engagement from a crowdsourcing campaign can extend well beyond the development of content.  Inviting a brand audience to view and vote for submissions can drive awareness and increase participation and contributions to a campaign. Furthermore, marketers can incentivize the sharing of crowdsourced content to aid distribution through social media channels.

Consider how Tech Deck, maker of miniature skateboards that users can control with their fingers, is crowdsourcing videos around the theme “Never Stop Skating.”  Tech Deck has embedded the campaign on their Facebook Page to enable the seamless curation of crowdsourced content to their Wall and boost their Page’s engagement and visibility. By inviting users to produce and comment on content, creative crowdsourcing campaigns serve as a great way to promote a brand through social media interaction.

Creative Insights.  It’s important for marketers to keep their fingers on the creative pulse of their consumers, and a crowdsourcing campaign can do just that.  Whether your campaign targets consumers or the brightest imaginations, crowdsourcing delivers a range of creative expression from people all over the world that can influence inform a brand’s creative positioning.  As an alternative to ads or promotional material, a creative crowdsourcing project can simply ask for content related to a concept or lifestyle that’s associated with the brand, like a recent client did with the idea of luxury.  Consumers are talking and creating content about your brand, but a crowdsourcing campaign offers a forum where marketers can harness that creativity to stay relevant.

As the social web introduces the world to new ways to create, curate, and share content, marketers that directly involve customers in the marketing efforts and empower them to shape to their brand’s identity will be ahead of the pack.

About the Author: Wil Merritt, CEO of Zooppa. Zooppa is the world’s leading source of user-generated advertising. With a creative community of over 130,000 members, Zooppa has worked with global brands including Google, Samsung, AT&T, and Nike and agencies including BBDO, MindShare and Razorfish to produce fresh and fun creative ads.