How widget-maker Clearspring uses social media to crowdsource product development

Clearspring, developer of the ubiquitous AddThis platform, offers an example of how to use social media to maximize efficiency and drive productivity

These days, it seems most people cannot live without social media. From Facebook, to Twitter, to LinkedIn, social media has infiltrated many aspects of our lives, both personal and professional. Although social media certainly has the potential to be a huge time waster, used correctly in a business setting, it can also be an enormous time saver. That is what those working at Clearspring, makers of the AddThis content sharing platform, have discovered to great success.

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Clearspring has chosen to invest in social media, and the payoff has been exceptional. Not only does Clearspring use social media externally to connect with and better understand the needs of their clients, it has found ways to make social media an integral part of its internal daily operations. From crowdsourcing to searching out fast answers to important questions, social media has allowed Clearspring employees to work more efficiently.

One of the primary tools that Clearspring uses to help employees throughout the organization connect with each other is Yammer, an internal social network. Jim Lane, Director of User Experience for Clearspring Technologies, explains that Yammer, which is equipped with a polling system, "is helpful when you are trying to get general feedback very quickly. Email tends to be a little bit slower. IM is immediate, but is a one to one conversation. If I am looking to crowdsource my information across the company, Yammer is the tool that we are comfortable with."

Greg Cypes, Director of Product at Clearspring, elaborates that, "when someone is looking or interested in finding out what we all think of a specific product, even a database that our data team is interested in giving more information on, we use the internal tools to reach out and see who has worked with those tool sets before. I think that being able to crowdsource the internal employees of our company with these tools makes our job easier. As our company expands, people who join the company don’t have to go and find people who already know the answer to certain questions; you can use the internal tools to help get the answers faster."

Clearspring’s use of social media does not end there. Facebook and Twitter have been useful tools to the team at Clearspring to spread the word about new products, a common tactic that has resulted in social media community members wanting to contribute by developing various product tools for the company, some of which Clearspring has incorporated. "By building social media directly into our product we can actually use our craft, essentially, to help us with viral marketing," Cypes explains.

Clearspring also crowdsourced their fans and followers to translate their AddThis platform, used by over 9 million domains. The tool is currently translated into over 70 languages, a feat that was accomplished by creating a credible database that people could visit to offer translations, a process that Lane and Cypes agree was much faster than hiring a translation service. This approach also has the added benefit of engaging their audience.

All this comes back to one central point: speed. In a world of constantly changing technologies, speed matters, and all tools that allow a company to operate at optimum efficiency are valuable. Clearspring has harnessed social media to do just that, because, as Lane says, "rapid results are really important for our people, and time is wasted sitting at round table meetings. We try to do things as quickly as possible, and using tools like Yammer and real time messaging built into the productivity tool is really key."

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