Quora’s “Ask to Answer” function is a great illustration of using social pressure to drive re-engagement.
It’s first important to understand how Quora works and how the Ask to Answer function feeds into the overall product strategy.
Quora is a question and answer site created, edited, and organized by a community of users.
On the surface, Ask to Answer is designed to get users to create more content. Content is obviously necessary to Quora because question/search experiences that don’t find an answer do not deliver value to the user. However, a deeper engagement loop drives users back to the site based on explicit social pressure from one user directly asking another (and then waiting for the answer).
To encourage production of content, Quora uses several triggers, namely:
Allowing users to add questions – becomes a seed to increase production on the network
Allowing users to follow questions – and receive an e-mail when new content becomes available
Allowing users to ask other users to answer a question (“Ask to Answer”) – encourages speedier delivery of value, and therefore return usage for the consumer, and adds social pressure for the “asked” user to return to the product
Ask to Answer
User Experience for Producer
In addition to triggering the consumer to return, the Ask to Answer function puts strong social pressure on the producer to return to the product and create content.
From the perspective of the producer, the experience starts with an e-mail notification.
The subject line starts with the name of the person that asked to answer. This signals that there’s a person, not just the product, asking for re-engament. The body of the e-mail offers “credits” for answering the question and the call to action is for me to view the question. This is designed to make the producer feel honored to be seen as an expert and excited about the opportunity to receive the reward of credits.
Upon arriving on Quora, the producer sees a notification. This gives the user the feeling that there’s something that needs to be complete. It’s similar to the Gmail inbox notification. It gives the user a desire to click it and complete it.
The producer is also in anticipation of a variable reward. The variable reward in this case is the amount of upvotes received. Variable rewards, as opposed to known rewards, have been shown to increase engagement because of the desire for the user to see what the reward will be. Facebook uses “Likes.”
While in this state of bliss and anticipation (dopamine), Quora asks the user for an investment. They want the user to take time to write a thoughtful answer.
They want this investment because answering will not only increase the likelihood of the producer returning, it also improves the experience for consumers, by delivering the value they desire.
Branch, a similar Q&A site, but with private threads, publicly displays who’s been asked to answer but hasn’t yet. This adds even more social pressure for the producer to return. They’re returning because they want to avoid the public shame of being disrespectful to the asker.
The Ask to Answer function is a great social hook for driving repeat engagement with the product. With Quora, the content is text, but the same principles apply to other social products and networks with different kind of content – such as photos or “pins”.