3 Tips for Choosing a Crowdsourcing Platform You Can Trust

This article originally ran in American Express’s Open Forum

Before you farm out any key business tasks, get the answers to these 3 questions to help you confidently hire freelancers who can get the job done.

Over the years, the Internet has evolved from what was once a one-to-one communication platform (AIM and email) to a one-to-many service (Craigslist, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter, among others). In the midst of this massive change, we’ve also seen a rise in the number of crowdsourced platforms, which can provide needed services at reasonable prices.

Whether it’s getting your lawn mowed by a TaskRabbit freelancer or hiring someone for more professionally rigorous work like translating apps or localizing websites, quality matters. Unfortunately, the “humanware” aspect of crowdsourcing is often the weak link in an otherwise strong platform. As a TechStars mentor of mine recently pointed out, “When humanware meets software, the problem often lies between the seat and the machine.”

As the world continues to come online—some 2.4 billion of the world’s citizens are now connected—more and more people will turn to crowdsourcing as a way to get things done. But if they can’t trust the humanware behind the software, they haven’t actually found an effective or dependable solution to their problem.

If you’re using a crowdsourced platform to hire people who analyze data, build websites and apps, draft communications or perform other critical tasks, you need to recognize that your confidential information could be exposed. With this in mind, it’s critical that you look for the key indicators of a safe and secure platform. To find these indicators, ask yourself the following three questions:

1. Does the Crowdsourced Platform Vet Its Crowd?

This may seem like an obvious question, but all too often, companies don’t ask this at the onset. Many crowdsourcing platforms allow anyone to enter the community. This can lead not only to poor service but also to a danger of leaking critical information to the market. Ensure that the platform you’re planning to use has clear barriers to entry—testing, background checks, interviews, etc.—and prominently displays its vetting process.

For example, at VerbalizeIt, we vet everyone who comes into our language translation platform on both their written and spoken language skills. We then vet them on every other expertise they list—otherwise, we’re in danger of failing our customers. If someone claims to be able to conduct legal translations, for instance, they’d better be able to prove to us they have a working knowledge of legal jargon.

2. Is the Crowd Available 24/7?

In today’s global marketplace, there’s always have a possibility that you’ll connect with a new customer who lives five time zones away. To help you get the job done efficiently with your international clients, there’s no reason your crowdsourcing platform shouldn’t also be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

When vetting a crowdsourcing platform, confirm that it offers global support and ask if it can expedite orders so you can better serve your clients. For example, if you’re building an app, there no reason you should feel restricted to coding in your own timezone, while the sun is up. On the other hand, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice sleep to get the work done. Some platforms—Elance and oDesk are just two examples—have coders all over the world ready to continue building your app while you’re sleeping.

3. How Much Control Do You Have Over Transparency?

Most crowdsourced platforms do an exceptional job demonstrating their end product and what their customers have to say about it. However, very few crowdsourcing platforms show you the step-by-step process and exactly who is working on it. Accenture reports that between one-fifth and one-third of U.S. workers are now freelancers. Knowing who these freelancers are, what their expertise is, how they’ve been vetted, and what their goals are directly affects the level of risk you’re taking by sending your work into a crowdsourced platform.
And this leads us to the golden rule of crowdsourcing: When choosing a crowdsourced platform, make sure you know exactly how much say you have over each step of the process.

Exactly who is working on your tasks? Determining the answer to that question will mitigate the risk of losing confidential information, sacrificing quality or missing a deadline. You’ll also greatly increase your chances of being satisfied with a job well done.

Ryan Frankel is the CEO and co-founder of VerbalizeIt, which delivers instant access to a global community of high-quality translators. Contact Ryan directly at ryan.frankel@verbalizeit.com

Ryan Frankel Image

Good Times at Alley NYC’s #StartupBattles

Last night we were fortunate enough to participate in Alley NYC’s annual Startup Battle and make it to the final around! Below are a couple of the pictures recapping the event and some of the people we connected with. Feel free to get a full view of how Startup Battles work in this CNBC article.  

Flying through round 1…

Ryan Frankel At Startupbattles

Answering questions in rapid fire succession in round 2…

Verbalize It At Startup Battles

We went toe-to-toe with the champs and were honored to be in the finals! Congrats to Fiestah! 

#Startupbattle Winner

Never Be Lost in Translation Again

This is a guest post by Chris Sexton of  TripCase

Trip Case And Verbalize It Integration

If you’ve ever had the privilege of traveling to a new country, you may have experienced one of those “lost in translation” moments. I know I have.

I can remember back in September 2000, and I first achieved international traveler status that brought forth all the excitement around a new culture, new language, foreign land, new foods and risk of the unknown (nevermind it was 50 miles north of Minnesota for a long weekend fishing trip in Canada). For most globe trekkers, the idea of logistics in an unfamiliar land, is part of the challenge and adventure. However, there can be frustrating moments in global travel when you say to yourself, “I wish I had a translator for this quick conversation.” It could be translations help with a taxi cab driver, server at a restaurant or medical advice at a pharmacy.

As you begin making your international travel plans for 2014, we have great news you might appreciate. TripCase has partnered with an exciting new company called VerbalizeIt. Yes, it’s that same name mentioned on the last season of Shark Tank in 2013. They are bringing an “out there” concept to reality and making it easy to prepay via your phone for a human voice translator. Picture yourself in a frustrating situation needing translations help in Germany. You can simply access a human translator via VerbalizeIt (and your mobile phone) and give the phone to the native speaker to deliver the translated message.

Read the press coverage on Skift.com

Good news for our travelers

TripCase travelers will find a message inside the app for adiscount on translation minutes. So if you’re travelling from the U.S. to Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Taiwan, and the UAE, look in the Tripfeed for a great new service to help make your trip experience a little better.

Driving Customer Loyalty in an Increasingly Commoditized Travel Industry

This article originally appeared in Forbes

Adding Airline Value

Customer loyalty in the travel industry is not what it used to be. With increased transparency on comparative prices and easier access to booking tools, travelers are increasingly loyal to those that provide the best prices and experiences.

After attending PhoCusWright’s Travel Innovation Summit in November, we noticed how appropriate the summit’s theme of “cult of context” is in today’s market. Travel organizations can no longer afford to be generic, attempting to appeal to everyone. Customers expect contextual relevancy and companies are expected to deliver.

If I’m on a business or leisure trip to Asia, it’s acceptable for me to want to know every detail about cost, flight routes, class of service, location and amenities. A few years ago, I’d have to cross-reference this information between books, multiple websites and calls to travel agencies. Today I expect the most optimized solutions tailored to my individual needs. After all, in a hyper-connected world, why would I settle for anything less?

The key to winning in a commodity-based landscape is to offer a contextual experience without increasing marginal overhead or sacrificing brand equity. This sounds simple enough and in many instances it is. Knowing where a user is going, when they’re leaving, and why they’re traveling is now par for the course. Matching this information with user interests remains difficult.

Below are three ideas we have to help do just that. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section of this article:

1. Pay Attention to Their Data
A customer’s data is more readily available today than ever before. Capturing the information needed to know your customer is female, from Beijing, 43 years old, works for a Fortune 500 and enjoys hiking in her spare time isn’t rocket science—API plugins to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms have made this simple. Overlaying this information onto your preset messaging and up-selling suggestions is challenging. Target’s ability to accurately guess a teen pregnancy is an extreme example, there are many less complex ways to let your customer know that on her journey she can hike Mt. Rainer on her day off in Seattle or enjoy Yelp’s highest-rated Seattle sushi after she checks into her hotel.

2. Speak Their Language
Fact: seventy-two percent of customers prefer to make a purchase in their own language. This isn’t to say that customers don’t understand English (although English is not the primary language in fifty-seven percent of the fastest growing markets). This simple means that customers want to know that you’re paying attention to their needs. Traveling is stressful no matter where you are in the world and if people aren’t speaking your primary language, it can be even more daunting. If you’re dealing with a customer in an emerging market or an established market, it’s critical to not only recognize their native tongue but to demonstrate that you appreciate it. This leads us to our final point…

3. Change Their Perception
In today’s global economy formerly distant cultures are connecting through new mediums faster than ever before. This could leave your brand exposed to misinterpretation as your messaging travels from one culture to another (we’ve seen plenty of corporate ads get mistranslated). As you’re working on anticipating your customers needs don’t shy away from trying something new and potentially resetting the watermark. Dropbox did this by giving away free storage and charity:water did this by asking their members to donate their birthdays. The travel industry is notorious for pushing the same holiday-centric buttons over and over. That’s fine, but it’s not going to change a customer’s perception of your brand.

Making an impression in today’s world requires taking a risk. Just make sure the risks you take are in context otherwise your just another meaningless product and the only way you’ll win is price.

In an increasingly commoditized travel industry, what else are we missing? What would you add?

Ryan Frankel is the CEO of VerbalizeIt, the company that connects businesses and travelers directly to a 17,000-person translator community to deliver real-time quality translation. He is considered an expert on global communication and international customer engagement. Ryan is also a Wharton MBA alumnus, former private equity investor for Goldman Sachs and an endurance athletics enthusiast. You can reach him via e-mail at ryan.frankel@verbalizeit.com

Top Ten Translation Stories of 2013

At the end of 2013 we asked our 17,000 person translator and interpreter community to submit the top ten translation stories for 2013. Once we had them in hand, we asked our community to vote on what they thought was most important to the translation and interpretation industry. Here’s what we came up with… 

#10 Fortissimo takes one-third stake in One Hour Translation 
–Steven Scheer, Reuters

“Israeli private equity group Fortissimo Capital has acquired one-third of One Hour Translation, a provider of online professional translation of documents, for an investment of $10 million.”

#9 Twenty-Two Chinese Signs That Got “Seriously Lost in Translation” –BuzzFeed

Click on BuzzFeed to see all of the signs…

#8 Spanish language barrier on ObamaCare sign-ups –Geoff Earle, New York Post

WASHINGTON — No comprendo, senor presidente.There are indications Spanish speakers aren’t signing up for ObamaCare in hoped-for numbers, with language barriers, deficient sites and a digital gap seen as likely reasons…

#7 Google Translate gets support for nine new languages, bringing total to 80 –Emil Protalinski, The Next Web

Google today announced it has added support for nine new languages in Google Translate, bringing the service’s total to 80 languages. The additions aren’t unpopular by any means either: they span Africa, Asia, and Oceania with over 200 million native speakers collectively…

#6 Twitter Updates Its Windows Phone App With In-Stream Translation To 54 Languages –Alex Wilhelm (@alex), TechCrunch

Twitter updated its Windows Phone application today to include in-stream tweet translation to 54 languages, which is powered by Bing. Tweets can now be displayed on the lock screen of Windows Phone devices. This will come in handy when Nokia’s ‘Glance’ feature is released for the platform, which allows information to be displayed even when a phone is locked. Twitter updates will presumably be viewable with that feature when it reaches general availability…

#5 Facebook Acquires “Mobile Technologies”, Developer Of Speech Translation App Jibbigo –Josh Constine (@joshconstine), TechCrunch

Facebook’s latest acquisition could help it connect users across language barriers. It has just announced that it’s acquired the team and technology of Pittsburgh’s Mobile Technologies, a speech recognition and machine translation startup that developed the app Jibbigo. From voice search to translated News Feed posts, Facebook could to a lot with this technology…

#4 Everything You Wanted To Know About The Giant Elance, oDesk Merger & Ensuing Backlash (But Were Afraid To Ask) –Rip Empson (@ripemp), TechCrunch

Earlier this year, Seamless and Grubhub announced that their companies would be joining forces in a blockbuster merger. Already two of the biggest names in online food-ordering, the prospect of a combined “Grubless” sent ripples through the market. Once upon a time, these kind of massive private mergers only happened once in a blue moon, but those were different times…

#3 Next Google Glass Tricks Include Translating the World From Your Eyes –Liz Gannes (@LizGannes), AllThingsD

Imagine you’re traveling in a country whose language you don’t speak. You look up at a sign — say, a caution marker, or a list of directions. Oh, also, you’re wearing Google Glass. You say, “Okay Glass, translate this.” The words on the sign transform into your home language, so when you look through Glass, you can read them…

#2 A Small Company’s Reality Is Altered by ABCs ‘Shark Tank’ –Mark Cohen, New York Times

It has been about a month since ABC showed the season finale of “Shark Tank,” the reality show that gives entrepreneurs in search of financing a chance to plead their cases before five tough-talking investors, or “sharks.” At VerbalizeIt, a [translation] technology start-up that was part of this season’s final segment, the effects of the show’s appearance can already be quantified…

#1 Google app translation service now available to Android devs –John Ribeiro (@Johnribeiro), PC World

Google has made its app translation service available to all Android developers to enable them to offer their apps in different languages. The service, first previewed in May at Google I/O, allows developers to purchase professional app translations through the Google Play Developer Console from third-party service providers at prices ranging on an average from $75 for a small app to $150 for a large app per language…

Did we miss anything? Let us know at communications@verbalizeit.com