At 2:45pm, a customer – let’s call him Dave – submitted his first product review at a large consumer electronics ecommerce site. The review submission page thanked Dave for contributing, and presented some customer-generated questions that had been submitted for the product he reviewed, asking him if he’d like to help even more shoppers by sharing his knowledge. A little over an hour later, Dave had answered 126 questions about laptop specs, upgrades, and recommendations before finally logging out.

Dave’s name may be fictional, but his story isn’t. It came directly from one of our clients, and we often see stories just like it.

  • One health and beauty brand saw a user log on at midnight to review a dress and some cosmetics she had purchased. She stayed logged in until 3:15am, answering 51 questions about dresses, vitamins, and cosmetics.
  • A mass merchant retail customer submitted a review on a flannel sheet set. Two hours later, the customer had answered 54 questions about flannel sheets in the retailer’s community.
  • One sporting goods retailer received 31 answers to customer questions about fishing lures from a customer who submitted a single review on a fishing bait product.

Dave and the other customers in these examples are “super contributors” – hyper-engaged users spurred into extended interaction with brand sites by effective participation chains. When properly nurtured, these highly vocal users can be incredibly valuable for brands. Their knowledge builds brands’ Q&A communities into definitive knowledge-leading resources for shoppers. Super contributors don’t always spend hours in marathon answer sessions – they can also be highly engaged repeat visitors who return to your site, answering more and more questions over time.

The key to making the most of super contributors is catching and engaging them. Here are three tips to turn your reviewers and answerers into hyper-engaged super contributors.

1. Lower the barriers to initial engagement

Only a small percentage of your contributors will become super contributors, so it’s important to get as many people to start engaging as possible – a bigger pool will hopefully mean more potential super contributors. Make it as simple as possible to start contributing. Let people answer questions without registering – answers are useful to other shoppers, even if you don’t get the answerer’s email address for your database. Thank them for each submission and include more unanswered questions relevant to the same topic.

2. Build a strong participation chain to ramp contributors up to “super contributors”

A “participation chain” is the process of growing participation from an initial interaction to higher engagement, by repeatedly presenting users with relevant opportunities to contribute. An important aspect of building strong participation chains is making sure that no customer touchpoint is a dead end. A classic example of businesses letting their customers hit a brick wall is the submission thank you page – most thank you pages simply thank the reviewer for submitting, possibly offering a link back to the main site.

But think about the missed opportunity – here you have a customer who is engaged, enough to come back to your site after a purchase to submit a review. Don’t let their initial engagement die. You can assume the customer is knowledgeable of the product they reviewed, so ask them to share their knowledge with other shoppers. Include customer-generated questions on that product or category on the thank you page, and ask your reviewer to help even more customers by answering. After every answer submission, thank them again and present them with more questions to answer.

The more targeted the selection of questions to show the user, the stronger the participation chain will be. The logic behind Answer Request– our algorithm for choosing which questions to display on each submission thank you page – has been repeatedly refined. It displays the most relevant questions for each user, based on a compilation of all of their prior reviews and answers.

3. Recognize super contributors to maintain engagement and build aspiration

Recognition and achievement of “expert” status are likely motivators for super contributors. Badge your top contributors as such. Badges feed the recognition these answerers crave, and also lets other shoppers know that their answers are credible. Recognizing top contributors in marketing campaigns creates aspiration around contributing – both for your current top users and for new visitors. Free People featured their top reviewers in an email campaign and saw a 93% increase in review volume the first week of the email.

We’ve found super contributors more common in certain industries: mass merchant/ department stores, consumer electronics, health and beauty, sporting goods, and pets. These industries were also among the first-movers adopting UGC on their sites. As customer reviews and community Q&A become more common for every industry (it’s already happening), I expect highly vocal and knowledgeable customers to begin hyper-engaging in those industries as well. Businesses that draw these users in early and continue to engage and recognize them will have the most success in creating valuable super contributors.

Harnessing the Power of Community Q&AWhite Paper

Harnessing the Power of Community Q&A

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