Championing Change from Within

Social Media is as revolutionary as it is evolutionary. It represents an important chapter in the ongoing saga and transformation of new media.

Over the years, we’ve witnessed that the 10 stages of social media integration in business are almost always set in motion by an internal champion who is determined and impassioned to engender change from the inside out. These champions emerge from different disciplines and departments and are typically role agnostic. Depending on the organization, champions exist in customer service, communications, marketing, interactive, as well as executive management. 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.

Champions however, are the beginning of an important movement, a mainspring that needs the alignment of more formidable allies and platforms to impact the business overall.

Social Media champions are often referred to as change agents or trust agents as their dedication rouses and inspires trust within their organizations as well as within the social communities that define their landscape of influence. Monikers we haven’t yet seen to define these advocates are ones that actually reflect their next stages of growth and advancement. Inevitably all champions become politicians and ultimately diplomats in order to truly become change agents across the entire organization. The difference is that a champion represents a catalyst for defining and presenting the case for adaptation and experimentation. They either do so by acting now and apologizing later, and/or they review and curate case studies and success stories in order to earn support for an official, funded pilot program.

As experience is established and initial successes are presented, champions are then challenged by inspired believers or worse, the opportunists within the organization who realize that social media represents an opportunity for personal and professional advancement. Internal competition ensues and without formal governance or training, social media becomes a landscape that resembles corporate anarchy.

Change agents are not martyrs however, and their passion is not overthrown by the materialization of opportunists. Their fervor is only intensified as they earn and build networks of support within as well as outside through online and offline engagement. Eventually our champions realize that they must become politicians in order to stimulate and advance social media adoption across the entire company. To do so effectively and with meaningful results, it is critical that social media earns the attention, support and focus of the executives who hold the wheel for steering the current and future direction of the company.

Politicians understand that in order to reach the greater goal of the cause they so passionately believe in, they must also lobby on behalf of that cause among the policy makers and change agents that exist in key posts at every level. In doing so, a wave of validation and constituencies will rise and grow as it migrates toward the heart of the organization.

Through every experiment, success, or failure, the understanding of social media only intensifies. As such, social media programming will grow more sophisticated over time – representing a new age for social media. In many ways, the potential for social media is beyond the grasp of any one individual and as such, politicians become diplomats to introduce experiences across the organization in sensitive and effective ways.

While social experimentation starts and flourishes within one department, every outward facing group as well as those affected by inbound and surrounding influence, will need to socialize (whether it’s through engagement or simply by learning through observation, listening and research). What begins as a bottom-up movement requires a top-down directive to precipitate a formal renaissance sparked by champions, lobbied through politicians, and promoted through emissaries.

The socialization of media creates a vital, plugged-in business channel and as such, support from the C-suite is mandatory. However, many executives are not clear in how they should lead transformation and therefore require guidance from those politicians who have successfully lobbied for and earned support. As discussed in my next book, the creation of New Media Councils or Advisory Boards are imperative to the expansion of socially-aware programs and the departments and resources that can support and scale with them.

The question of who owns social media suddenly dissipates in favor of a discussion that is far more substantial and productive. It’s a collaborative process embraced by the entire organization with specific benefits defined and delivered to everyone involved, including those affected by our actions.

Over the years, I have participated in the creation of many Advisory Boards, both internal (current employees) and external (stakeholders, influencers, experts), within small businesses and Fortune 500 companies as a way of organizing efforts and resources around the vision of champions, turned politicians. This council essentially facilitates collaboration, addresses politics, secures buy-in across the organization, pools budgets, and promotes accountability.  More importantly, one of the council’s primary objectives and responsibilities is to ensure the education and advancement of employees to create an organization rife with ambassadors and advocates beyond the original group of champions. Advisors should include representatives from each division that requires a social presence, and let’s not forget legal, as well as those individuals who represent the people inside the organization as well as those who define our markets.

The path from champion to politician to diplomat is long and tumultuous, but it is however, essential to the furtherance of new media within the organization as well as to the career of those who remain diligent and sincere. While the word politician may evoke certain emotions, usually less than complimentary, the difference in goals, tactics, and objectives represents an intrinsic shift from proponent, promoter, and crusader to a new role as strategist, lobbyist, community builder, and campaigner.

Where do you see yourself in this sea of change?

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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