For nonprofits, leveraging influencer marketing can be a fantastic way to reach new audiences in the always-connected digital age. However, it’s easy to get swept up in trying out a hot new trend without first considering both the potential benefits and negative impacts.
More importantly, if a newer tactic doesn’t help increase awareness or help reach specific fundraising goals, then it isn’t worth the time and resources for nonprofits. In this case, it all comes down to understanding what defines an “influencer” and how partnering with these individuals moves your organization forward.
Armed with knowing what to look for when trying to find influencers to align your nonprofit with, you can be successful on several levels with these efforts.
Here’s our guide for nonprofits looking to make the most out of their influencer marketing campaigns.
What is Influencer Marketing?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an influencer is someone who affects or changes the way that other people behave. The term influencer marketing is relatively new and was coined by marketers to describe personalities with large online followings. If you were to type the term into a word processor, the spellchecker might even suggest you’re trying to spell some variant of the word “influence.”
An influencer in today’s world is someone with enough social clout to successfully persuade their audience to think a certain way or motivate them to take action.
Influencer marketing is a tactic many brands use in which they will approach someone with a strong online presence with a partnership opportunity. The purpose of such a relationship is to promote a brand’s mission through the voice of an influencer, all in hopes of harnessing previously untapped opportunities for exposure.
Levels of Influence
The Internet has made it possible for individuals to gain notoriety and grow an audience that wasn’t possible just a few decades ago. Our definition of celebrity is changing, and the Internet has been the genesis of this change in our society.
The difference now is that the idea of a celebrity is somewhat relative since social media, Google search, and YouTube can give just about anyone a voice.
In terms of influencer marketing, there are many levels influencers can fall under. Nonprofits of any size can potentially leverage influencers from every tier, it just comes down to what’s feasible for these organizations.
Without drilling down too far, here are the different tiers of influencers when looking for new opportunities.
1) Top-Tier Influencers – These people are typically public figures who have extremely large audiences and are widely recognized. Generally, top-tier influencers have somewhere between 200K -1M+ followers and fans across multiple social platforms.
For musicians, actors, politicians, etc., this tier is reserved for individuals who typically have spent their entire careers building up their influence and didn’t necessarily use online platforms to get where they are today. The important thing to keep in mind with influencers with a large following is that they have a lot of commitments, and not every one of them may be a good fit for your organization.
For nonprofits, the potential is still there if the opportunity is right for top-tier influencers, but it will be a hard sell since many celebrities are often engaged with several nonprofit organizations at any given time. The key here with engaging a highly recognized influencer is to first identify those who have an outward affinity for your nonprofit’s mission.
2) Tier 2 Influencers – Just underneath the highest tier are the power influencers with roughly 50K-100K followers across several social platforms. Tier 2 influencers are the perfect level of influencer for partnership because they are continuing to build up their audience. Partnering with a nonprofit can be beneficial to their brand and they have an established online presence to give you a lot of potential reach.
3) Tier 3 “Micro” Influencers – And in the category of influencers with the smallest reach are what those often refer to as micro-influencers. Social media followers for these individuals can range anywhere between 1K – 45K.
Despite having significantly smaller follower counts, these influencers are generally more relatable and have wildly engaged audiences. In fact, many of the largest brands on the planet leverage both top-tier and micro-influencers. So despite not having quite the same reach as higher tiered influencers, these micro-influencers have dedicated followers that may be more inclined to donate or help spread awareness for a nonprofit’s cause.
How did they grow their audiences?
One of the most important questions to ask when evaluating an influencer is how they built their brand and follower counts. Typically, influencers are some kind of content creator, such as:
- Industry Experts
- Live Streamers
Influencers often have a single platform where they’ve had the most success with building an audience. Sometimes these online personalities have also built up an audience across multiple platforms or moved from one to another.
People trust the influencers they follow and care about their opinions and experiences. If an influencer posts about a specific organization, their audience is likely to be interested in following through with some sort of call to action.
Considerations for Influencer Marketing
When leveraging the social clout of today’s influencers, such a partnership can result in reaching a new audience and getting a boost to their credibility. Some benefits to nonprofits can include growing their own online following, acquiring new donors, strengthening awareness for new campaigns, better recognition, and public perception.
But before you go out and try to find influencers to partner with, here are a few important considerations.
1. Identifying potential matches
Before even researching influencer opportunities, start by laying out the goal of a given campaign or program. Think about the specific outcomes you expect by leveraging social platforms.
- Is awareness and reach your priority?
- Does your organization care more about engagements than impressions?
- Do you have specific campaign fundraising goals?
Once the overarching goal and needs of the program have been assessed you can then begin to think about the “face” of the program. Specifically, try to figure out who you are trying to target with a given campaign.
All of these questions feed directly into the type of influencer and relative audience you are looking to engage. From there you can start compiling influencers that may become a great fit for your organization.
Bonus tip: One of the best places to start when identifying potential matches for an influencer campaign is by looking at your own constituents first. It’s very possible that you already have some real gems hiding in your database that have already done some great work in the past. They demonstrate a natural affinity and have proven that they are committed to making valuable contributions to your nonprofit.
2. Evaluating their audience/online footprint
In the end, you want to partner with influencers who believe in what you do and will represent your nonprofit in an organic and positive light. So while one influencer may have a large and relevant audience for your goals, they may not be a good match without carefully thinking it through.
Next, you’ll want to figure out what an influencer’s follower growth looks like by using a tool such as SocialBlade. By plugging in an influencer’s social username, you can examine how follower counts changed over the last two years. If you see a constantly upward trend line, chances are that their growth is legitimate. However, if you notice patterns of unexplainable jumps in follower counts, it’s possible that these influencers may be guilty of purchasing followers through untrustworthy means.
Lastly, you’ll want to browse through a couple posts to see how followers engage with their posts. The higher the level of engagement in relation to the number of followers, the more valuable their audience is overall.
3. Are they genuine?
This is where you’ll leverage your understanding of your nonprofit’s brand; you’ll want to be 100% sure that an influencer believes in your nonprofit’s mission. You’ll be tempted to carefully craft specific messaging, but a sincere testimonia
l from an influencer provides authenticity to the relationship and, more importantly, credibility to the organization’s brand. The key here is to build an authentic, organic relationship with an influencer.
4. Terms of partnership
Don’t be afraid to set some ground rules and define expectations when working with an influencer. This goes both ways, so try to establish a sense of transparency and honesty with your influencers to reduce the risk of miscommunication.
Be very clear about what you want them to do. Keep in mind, you want to start out with a small ask that will require little work on their part. As you build the relationship, you can ask for more complex tasks but in the beginning, keep it simple.
5. Exercise caution
It’s critical to find those influencers who have some connection to what you are doing. The right influencer can provide an immediate awareness or funding bump to an organization, but the wrong influencer can cause irreparable harm.
You may want to try out a probationary period to test the waters. Start by creating low time commitment ways for them to show their support. Amplify those efforts and activities conducted on your behalf, and create additional opportunities for these influencers to spread the word about your organization.
6. Platforms to consider
Influencers all have one or more platforms where their audience is most active. With a clear understanding of your brand, the influencers you target may often rely most heavily on platforms most relevant to your brand.
For example, many Twitch streamers will dedicate entire streams to charity, with all donations going to their charity of choice. Here’s a story about an online content creator who goes by the name “Ninja,” one of the biggest streamers on Twitch who was able to raise over $100,000 over the course of an eight-hour stream.
Broadcasting to nearly 100K concurrent viewers, Ninja was able to bring widespread awareness in the gaming community to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
7. How to assess performance
You can evaluate your influencer marketing campaign’s impact in many ways.
To choose which measurement is right for your influencer campaign, know your objectives for each campaign. Branding and awareness may be more important for some nonprofits, whereas others are more likely focused on generating more donations. What you track depends on your goals and how the campaign is measured.
Here are a couple metrics you may want to measure:
- Total engagements
- Brand mentions
- Total $ raised
- Follower growth
- Click-through rates
- Video views
Leveraging an influencer’s follower network can result in more followers, donations, volunteers, and ultimately increased awareness for your nonprofit. Followers trust these influencers so they would be more inclined to support them and in turn, support your organization.
Influencer marketing is new to many nonprofits, and working to get the right influencers interested in your organization’s cause takes some time and effort in the beginning. But once you get the campaign going, your organization can reap the benefits of exposure to a new audience.