Brand advocates, or Champions, are key in ensuring the success of an online community. Champions are your most loyal customers, your biggest fans, and your most helpful users. Typically, Champions participate in a community and answer the questions of others out of their own interest in your company or product. They enjoy being recognized as a top contributor or a subject matter expert, and will often defend your brand during times of need.
Prior to launching your Champions program, take the time to define each part of the program clearly and rally support around your Champs from others in the organization. Decide what it means to be a community Champion, what’s required to earn and maintain Champion status in your community, and what the benefits are for being a Champion.
It is important to take your time in formulating a Champions program for your community. Unless you already have a group of active brand advocates identified, we suggest waiting at least three months after the community goes live to create a group of Champions. It may be tempting to create the program early. By waiting, you are able to see the tone of their interactions with other community members, how much they know about your product, and how much they support your brand. It takes a little more time but this helps you create a thriving Champions program from the start.
Defining Your Champs Program
When defining your Champions program, it is helpful to think about the overall mission of your community, and the goals of your community, and how the role of Champion ties duties back into them. These can help guide how your Champions act in your community. That way the success of your program can be tied back to the overall success of your community, and ultimately ROI can be developed.
Here are a few questions that will help with defining a Champions program:
- What is the goal of our Champions program?
- Increase peer-to-peer support
- Increase self service support numbers (that can be tracked using CHA)
- Build stronger brand advocacy across the web
- Help reduce employee involvement in the community
- Develop Champions so that they can assist other community members with potential support issues outside of normal business hours
- What is expected of a Champion?
- Build peer to peer interaction and support in the community by participating in active topics, and sharing knowledge with new members
- Lead by example by maintaining an active, positive presence in the community. Uphold the community guidelines, step in if users begin to argue with one another, and drive conversations toward productive outcome
- Advocate for our brand both online and offline
- Champions should follow community Categories so that they are aware of new topics posted by your company or other community members
- What qualifications define Champion status in our community?
- History of positive contributions within the community
- Demonstrated positive engagement and participation
- Demonstrated product knowledge
- What are the benefits to being a Champion?
- Special recognition within the community with a custom Champs badge and a listing on the community’s “People” page.
- May potentially have access to our team via email and Skype, and advanced-access to new features and releases
- Potentially earn Moderator status, which would give the Champ access to moderation tools. A useful skill set to add to one’s resume or LinkedIn profile
- Special benefits for our company Champions. It could be as simple as fun schwag from our company, sneak peeks at product releases, product to enjoy, or tickets to a conference related to our company. Giving Champions benefits that are not available to the average community member keeps them motivated. Showing Champions that you appreciate their efforts is very important.
- How am I measuring the success of our Champions program?
- Number of replies by Champions
- Number of Champion responses marked as an Official Response
- Number of questions answered by Champions
- Number of problems resolved by Champions
- Number of active topics created by Champions
- Number of new customers related to Champion activity
Ongoing Champions Management
As your program grows you’ll want to continue to engage and reward your Champs, as well as add new Champs to your program. Set up regular checkpoints with your Champions as well as exclusive activities, including:
- Groups – Create a way to connect with your Champions separately from the rest of the community. Set up an Access Controlled category, create a private Facebook group, or create a private LinkedIn group. Giving your Champions a private space allows them to build a deeper connection with one another and with your brand.
- Regular Communications – Send regular newsletters to your Champs so that they’re kept up to date with your company happenings. Consider setting up monthly, or quarterly, calls with your Champs to keep them engaged and in the loop.
- Offline Meetups – Depending on your community, you may be able to pull together regular events where your Champs and employees can get together face-to-face.
Recognizing your Champions is a great way to acknowledge their efforts and to keep them motivated to continue with positive contributions.
What happens if you need to demote a Champion? Sometimes people get too busy to continue acting as a Champion in your community. Or they may change jobs and no longer be a customer of yours anymore. It is normal for a Champions program to have some turnover. This conversation in the Get Satisfaction customer community is a great resource for finding out how others have handled this situation in their community.
Measuring the Success of a Champs Program
The key to the longevity of your Champs program, and to get management to continue spending money on your custom Champs schwag, is to be able to measure the overall success of your program. Measuring success of your Champs program will increase the value of your community, and ultimately help increase ROI. Depending on your community’s goals, you may want to monitor the following metrics:
- Total number of Champions compared to “engaged” Champions
- Number of conversations started, and issues resolved, by Champs
- The number of responses that were marked as “official responses”
- Gamification scores in their member profile
- Amount of positive participation on negative threads
- Quantity of topic activities
To track these metrics, you will want to use custom reports that can be created using Community Health Analytics (CHA) and filtered views that can be created in Manage Workspace. There are also suggestions on how to evaluate Champions in the Get Satisfaction customer community.