How to make PGC SNS content maker more active without money reward?

I will use my experience of designing the “Ask Me” PGC SNS when I was working for Alibaba Group – UC mobile browser to talk little about it.

“Ask Me” is a small PGC SNS in UC mobile browser where users could ask questions in the topics they interested and the topic owners will answer those questions.

the content maker’s management page design

So how to make those professional content makers more active and willingly to answer more question? The most intuitive answer might be “pay them”. However, directly pay them is not really a good way to do so. Because you need to set up a rule to determine how much you should pay them, which is a very difficult rule to come up.

For example, if you decide to pay them according to the how many question they have answered, then there is a high chance all the topic owners will answer and many as they can and do not care about quality anymore.

You might think about use quality as the criterion. How “quality” here is hard to judge. Topic A has more “followers” or “likes” than the topic B does not necessarily means that topic A owner’s answers have higher quality than B topic’s owner’s answer because the topic A maybe naturally more popular than topic B. However, it is by no means that you can not determine the content quality at all, as many UGC/PGC platforms have great ways to “share” their AD income with high quality content makers, it is just a little bite complicated and require more time and resources than I had at that time since my team only had two programers so I needed to come up with other design.

Most importantly, we wanted our users and topic owner felt like it was a nice way to interact and meet with people shared their interest and learn from each other. So I want to explain more about the design that not related with money reward

The first step was to find out why people like to interact with strangers and want to be an “Ask Me” topic owner.

We used user interview and focus group to find the reasons and they could be summed up to 5 main reasons. By the way, if you want to find out things like this, it is better to use qualitative analysis methods. Number 1 to 3 was what I focused at the beginning, so I designed some features in topic management page to full-fill those needs.

  1. To show how many “Like” you received, how many people read and followed your topic and how many questions you answered on the management page.
  2. To notice topic owner their answer was selected to the “hot content” for the day, new questions by in-app massage and red dot.( I will use another chance to talk about the design of red dot.)
  3. Monthly topic owner ranking(ranking by our operators)
  4. One-way private massage that topic owner can send to others.

I want to explain why the private massage is one-way. The answer is simple, it was the filter. If everyone could send private massage to topic owner then they would receive too many “junk mail”. But I wanted topic owner could “make friends”, so whenever they noticed that there was someone that could really ask great questions and wanted to discuss more, the topic owner could send a message and then the one got the massage was able to reply.

For most of topic owners, if you gave they more exposure, they would feel that they were respected and needed, so they would more likely to be more active.

Of course, there was one feature that could make them more active, that is “Donate”. Users could donate money to the topic owner they like. For topic owners, they could see how many people had donated and how much money they received. Sometime the amount of people who donated means more than money as they told us during interview because that stood for how much they were loved by others.