We have used the term “champion” many times on our blog to describe those risk-inclined individuals who become the essential drivers of progressive change within the commercialization ecosystem. Champions can wear many hats. We have described them as mentors, investors and, perhaps most importantly, advocates who take that leap of faith and make doors open at that critical juncture to snatch success from the jaws of failure.

In the process of creating and executing a social media marketing strategy to help bring technology to market, champions fall into two distinct categories:

  1. External champions of your technology who can be found, engaged and developed through social media.
  2. Internal champions of social media who advocate new tools and embrace enterprising tactics that allow their businesses to successfully compete within the social space.

These two categories of champion fall on opposite sides of the social media equation. Like any equation, both sides must be balanced for it to be solved. While external social champions of your technology are vital to influence others to rally behind your cause, it’s difficult to find, engage and develop these advocates without internal champions of social media technology and strategy. In the same way, internal champions who toot social media to their colleagues without proof of its success in finding, engaging and developing external champions will find if difficult to earn the permission and budget to move forward with their activities.

Where businesses have the most control is in supporting internal champions of social media, but this requires a nurturing corporate environment that incubates and accelerates new ideas. As Denzil Doyle explained in an earlier post, thought must be given to the people part of the equation for businesses to find those employees with high energy levels, mental capacity, common sense and the ability to communicate. Without the empowerment provided by a supportive, progressive and open-minded business environment, internal champions won’t be motivated to bring forward-thinking ideas to the table.

As Brain Solis puts it, “the 10 stages of social media integration in businesses are almost always set in motion by an internal champion who is determined and impassioned to engender change from the inside out … The change that these champions engender will ultimately represent a revolution in the spirit, philosophy, vision, and framework for organizations, one that increases market relevance and dramatically enhances the opportunity for affinity and fidelity.”

So, while external and internal social champions are both integral to the success of a social media program, internal champions more effectively contribute to the success of a social media strategy by fostering a social environment within their businesses early on:

  1. They experiment with new tools and techniques and bring more effective ideas to light.
  2. They then share these ideas with their colleagues, which can encourage more internal social champions.
  3. As more employees feel empowered to use social media to champion their companies, a social culture emerges that requires formal governance, guidelines and training to ensure social media engagement is executed professionally, which can be overlooked if social media activities are ignored or repressed.
  4. At this stage, businesses often recruit the expertise of a social media expert or team to ensure professional management of accounts. Internal champions of social media can become important gate people that external community managers such as myself can communicate with to move social media strategies forward. They also hold us accountable for our actions and provide constructive feedback to ensure strategies are written and executed to their best effect.

How do you support social champions in your business? Did I miss any important points?