If you treat your top contributors better than others, they will act better than others.
I’ve seen perfectly functional communities turned into dystopian firestorms by well-intentioned efforts to reward and encourage top contributors.
Top contributors believe their own praise and act condescendingly towards other members. They verbally shut down discussions they disagree with and assume their arguments are beyond reproach of regular members.
This in turn causes anger from regular members towards the community (and the company). It lowers their tendency to participate. Since it’s the regular members most likely to ask questions for top contributors to answer, the overall level of activity starts to creep down.
It’s tempting to overlook bad behavior as long as top contributors keep participating, but this only leads to bigger problems later.
Remember too, how it feels for a regular member to see a small group treated like kings. It’s not good.
Always align rewards with noble appeals to serve and support the community (not vice-versa). Praise members for sharing expertise, not for being experts. Help them increase the skill and knowledge level of regular members. Shut down bad behavior early.
If your top members refuse to do that, they’re probably not members worth rewarding.