Facebook has added a new incentive mechanism called Top Contributor to the Help Discussions section of its Help Center. The feature, a leaderboard like what you see in games, inspires people to answer questions well in exchange for recognition.
However, there are bigger changes coming to the Help Center. Questions will one day replace it, according Questions Product Manager Blake Ross. First, here’s a look at the new leaderboard.
As part of Top Contributor, users now earn points for answering customer support questions of fellow users, and can vie for a spot on the Top Contributor leaderboard. Facebook benefits from incentivizing user-to-user support because the more inquiries that can be answered by fellow users, the less professional customer support personnel they have to hire.
Users visiting the Help Center will see that the left sidebar now includes links for Top Contributor, as well as a My Score sublink of Help Discussions. When clicked, Top Contributor shows a leaderboard of the first names and profile pictures of the top 32 contributors. The top 5 contributors are also shown on the Help Discussions Home Page. Users can’t click through to see a leader’s support questions and answers, though, as this would raise privacy concerns and the added visibility could make it difficult to displace a leader from the board.
Users can rise to the leaderboard by answering questions for 5 points each and having their answers marked as the best for that question for 25 points each. The current Top Contributor currently has 299343 points. Users can see their current point totals within different periods of time by clicking the My Score navigation link.
Similar to how Facebook’s invite incentive system Impact works, Top Contributor adds game mechanics and rewards of prestige to users who help Facebook. With so many users playing social games, it seems natural to incorporate these mechanics. However, Facebook needs to make sure users don’t sacrifice quality in order to get more points. Inaccurate support answers can lead users to make more calls to professional support, and invites from strangers can scare potential users away from Facebook.
Facebook may seek to improve the quality of user-to-user support answers by tying them more directly to a person’s identity. Blake Ross, Product Manager for Facebook Questions says that the tool which currently allows users to ask friends and the public about time travel, their favorite restaurants, dating or anything will eventually power the currently more isolated, post & comment-style Help Discussions.
In response to a query on Facebook Questions asking “Is it OK to use Questions for Facebook support issues?”, Ross said “Absolutely. Most Facebook employees monitor questions about their products. In fact, Questions will ultimately replace our user-to-user help center.” If a user’s friends can see a record of their support answers, they’ll be inclined to give better answers. Using Questions to power Help Discussions will also bring support inquiries out from the trappings of the Help Center and onto the home pages and news feeds of users, increasing the likelihood they’ll receive answers.
As Facebook continues to grow across time and language boundaries, finding crowdsourced solutions to their customer support needs is essential. The challenge will be getting experienced users to help novices, and to avoid letting the blind lead the blind.
Update: We have received reports that some users may secured the abnormally large number of points necessary to be on the leaderboard by using an autoresponder. Facebook appears to have disabled some accounts on the leaderboard, as a few now show no name or profile picture.