This is an excerpt from Empower: How to Co-Create the Future. The full 200+ page book is available by donation!

“People’s attention is getting so split that it is a smart strategy for brands to build their own audience directly”

-Shane Snow

excerpt from book

David Passiak: Contently is a great example of how brands can collaborate with the crowd. In this case, it’s a crowd of high quality content creators. Contently is also a flagship example of what Arun Sundararajan referred to in our interview about crowd capitalism as a hybrid marketplace-firm, one of the new emerging business models for the future of work that combines freelance marketplaces with enterprise-level services typically found in large firms.

Can you reflect a bit on what you think is innovative about your approach to managing the relationship between companies and the crowd? What lessons might other companies learn from what you’ve done?

Shane Snow: You need to provide value on both sides. You can’t just think about how to make money from your clients. If you’re not providing for the crowd, then they’re not going to do any work for you and they won’t help you out. We learned that by giving first—by putting stuff out there to help freelancers, by building them free tools to market themselves and build their portfolio without asking anything of them—we engendered a lot of good will. That helped build our reputation, get users and create marketing that drives the business—but it also makes them more likely to look at an offer from our brand clients who want to work with them. They know that they’re not just mercenaries for hire.

David Passiak: The idea of ‘giving first’ makes a lot of sense, especially since you are a TechStars company. I spoke with Brad Feld about this. Can you dig deeper into a few examples of how to provide for the crowd?

SHANE SNOW is an award-winning journalist, celebrated entrepreneur, and the bestselling author of Smartcuts: The Surprising Power of Lateral Thinking. He is co-founder of the content technology company Contently, which helps creative people and companies tell great stories together, and serves on the board of the Contently Foundation for Investigative Journalism. Snow’s writing has appeared in Fast Company, Wired, The New Yorker, and dozens
more top publications. He’s been called a “Wunderkind” by The New York Times, a “Digital Maverick” by Details, and his work “Insanely addicting” by GQ—though he wishes they had been talking about his abs.