silent film crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing has proved a successful and effective technique for a number of brand-affiliated projects. Many brands have turned to crowdsourcing to gather user-generated content from fans and customers (like KFC’s #iatethebones contest), but one organization in particular is using the tactic to gather information about forgotten and unknown silent films.

The Nitrate Film Interest Group has taken to social media (specifically, Flickr) to help crowdsource any information they can about unidentified silent films. Frames and stills from unknown films (like the one above) are posted on the Group’s Flickr page and followers are encouraged to offer any information they can about these mystery films. They’re also encouraged to share the shots with friends, colleagues and anyone who might be able to shed some light on them. Since it’s estimated that over 90% of American films made before 1929 have been lost, identifying these fragments and unknown films has become a very important endeavor.

Group members can offer information about the frames via Flickr itself or by emailing the group directly. Every time a film is identified, the description is updated with new information, sharing the good news with curious film fans and film historians.

Now, chances are good that your brand has nothing to do with the world of silent film (if it does, I’d love to hear about it!), but there are still plenty of crowdsourcing lessons you can take away from the Nitrate Film Interest Group’s Flickr presence.

Make it a collaborative experience.

Sure, it’s fun to make user-generated content contests and promote a sense of friendly competition, but if you want to make your audience feel like a real community, make it a collaborative effort. Find a way to encourage fans to connect with other fans and share stories, photos or anything else you can think of. Just like the Nitrate Film Interest Group promotes a community spirit by having everyone pitch in to discover a lost piece of film history, find a way to bond your community through your crowdsourcing.

Find unique, creative reasons to crowdsource media or info from your fans.

Sure, you can go the KFC route and ask for content to be used in ads, but you can also crowdsource material from your fans for more creative endeavors. Is your brand celebrating an anniversary? Ask for pictures or descriptions of your fan’s first experience with your brand and incorporate it into an album, timeline, or a special section of your site. If a holiday is coming up, ask for photos of your fans enjoying your products on a past holiday.

Encourage fans to share the project with their friends and family.

Accept resources from anyone you can, including people who aren’t your fans on social or a recent customer. Encouraging your fans to share the project will help boost your engagement and response rate, while also giving you more submissions and more perspectives to use. It can also, potentially, help you grow your community.

If you need a service to help you gather your crowdsourced content, check out our post here. Or, if you’re in love with silent film, check out how the Toronto Silent FIlm Festival took a new, clever approach to Instagram.

Photo from the Nitrate Film Interest Group Flickr page