In an online community, your top contributors are your site’s godsend. Roll out the red carpet for them, recognise and reward them, make them feel as valuable as they are to your community and brand.
Especially in the early stages of your community, your top contributors are loyal visitors who continue to comment and post ideas – even if your numbers are small. They talk to the community manager by name, and set the high standards that should be part of any online community – listening and responding.
Once you have an established and working community, these people become your star pupils. But keep in mind – if you make a mistake, or become slack – they will certainly pick you up on it!
Your top contributors answer members questions before you have a chance, and will defend your brand when need be. A response to a customer’s negative comment always looks much better coming from a loyal customer than a company representative with obvious bias!
You can empower your best contributors by:
- Personally thanking them for the contributions and help.
- Launching a ‘Top Contributors’ blog post – where you recognise their efforts. Woolworths Everyday Matters community has recently launched their second Hall of Fame (disclaimer: I currently help Woolworths with their community).
- Assign badges which assigns a special status to your best contributors. This has been effectively done in sites like Tripadvisor, which assigns a number next to their screen name to indicate how many times they have left reviews on the site, or Hostel World which classifies their customers on how well-travelled they are – Novice Nomad, Avid Traveller and Globetrotter.
- In larger communities or communities where comments aren’t pre-moderated, you can assign these members moderating privileges which allows them to flag inappropriate comments, or allow new comments through. Communities like Game Spot, and Small Business Online Community. Communities like Slashdot use a ‘karma’ system, which depends on how good/bad/neutral your contributions have been so far.
- Ask them to guest blog for the site.
Remember to regularly research who your best contributors are, as there may be new members rising up the ranks – especially once they see how good it is to be a top contributor on your site!