The Power of Online Communities and Crowdsourcing

Posted by Wally Narwhal on Jul 8, 2014 7:57:00 PM


Community building is a necessary component of being successful online. The stronger the community you have, the more likely it is that you will be able to sustain your online business, whether you are selling goods online, making money through advertising revenue or selling a service. Having a strong brand is key on the web, especially with so many other businesses vying for that coveted spot as the leader of a specific industry or niche.

Below, I have identified a few of the most successful online communities and some of the key areas they focused on to build a successful brand on the web.

Rooster Teeth 

Rooster Teeth may be unfamiliar to many of you, but odds are, you have seen something that they have put out in the past decade. Rooster Teeth has been making online videos for the past 12 years, beginning with a series of videos known as “Red vs. Blue” based on the popular video game franchise, Halo. What began as a small company of 5 or so employees working out of an apartment has blossomed into a business of nearly 100 employees that creates many weekly videos based in the video game industry. They have branched out of this even further, hosting a yearly event in Austin known as RTX, bringing a real life event for their devoted fans. This year’s RTX just wrapped up, and coincided with the conclusion of their IndieGogo campaign to fund Rooster Teeth’s first full-length live action feature film, “Lazer Team.”

What sets Rooster Teeth apart from many online communities is the depths at which they go to foster this sense of community on the web. Instead of just working on a platform such as YouTube, their content is first exclusively released on their website, which is full of archived videos, forums and a store, with a very in depth backend that allows for easy interaction between members of their community. They also have a presence on YouTube, which extends their community even further.

At the end of their IndieGogo campaign, Lazer Team officially became the highest funded film in IndieGogo history, ending with a grand total of $2,480,421 raised. Rooster Teeth did a great job of promoting this campaign in a number of ways, breaking the traditional “U” shaped crowdsourcing model where the majority of the money raised is at the very beginning and end of a campaign. They set numerous milestones throughout the campaign that gave the community much more than just the film they are funding, but also new web series, podcasts and more. They also gave away a very select number of walk-on roles in the film for backers, showing their true dedication to the community that helped make their dream a reality. To break this model, Rooster Teeth not only added incentives, but implemented old school telethon-like tactics by hosting day long live streams to help raise awareness of the campaign. The day of the live stream was their second most successful day of the campaign, only second to the first day of their campaign. They were able to achieve their initial goal of $650,000 in the first few days of their campaign, which led to their stretch goals and additional fundraising for the remainder of the campaign. 

There is much to be learned from Rooster Teeth, whether or not you are using crowdsourcing for your next project. They truly understand their target audience, and have set a new standard for online community building and management.


There is a lot to be said about the Airbnb story, but their “Hollywood & Vines” campaign sums up their ability to harness the power of their community. Through this campaign, Airbnb was able to achieve 75,000 Twitter impressions with 10,000 new followers, all within a timespan of only 5 days.


Audi & Marvel Studios

What better way to build an online community than to leverage two brands that already have a great online presence? That is what Audi and Marvel did earlier this year with their “Steer the Story” campaign. The creators of this campaign put Iron Man and comic book fans in the director’s chair and provided them the chance to collaborate with Marvel artists to create their own Iron Man story. The community helped build the story and every few days, decided on the next plot point for Tony Stark (Iron Man) through the use of their Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages.

For many businesses, they don’t have the ability to up and create a community overnight or leverage the existing community of powerhouse companies. That is okay though, as you can’t expect anything this powerful to come without proper effort and time. It is vital that you take the necessary steps to build your brand online, as your online community will help to further showcase your products and/or services, bringing in new members to your community. While many businesses can’t have a community centered website, you can have a presence on social media, which is where many businesses who are building communities online are focused.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were any of the campaigns that I mentioned above. Begin building your online community today, so when the time comes, you can take your business to the next level through promotions, crowdsourcing and other projects that are reliant on a booming community to be successful. The only reasons that any of the companies mentioned above were able to go so far beyond their expectations were because of their commitment to proper community building. They didn’t all start out with this goal in mind, but were able to identify the importance of it at a time when they were experiencing significant growth.

Don’t get left behind! Businesses who create an online community today will be the ones flourishing in the future!

Wally Narwhal

Written by Wally Narwhal

Wally overseas (get it?) fun and silliness at Tribute Media as the company's acting mascot and unicorn of the sea.