5 minute read

Looking for a little attention? There’s a marketing buzzword you may have heard floating around called “influencer marketing.” The term is relatively new, but the concept behind it is not. At its most basic level, influencer marketing is a hybrid of old and new marketing tools. It takes the idea of celebrity endorsement and mashes it up with a modern-day content marketing campaign—and it’s designed to draw more eyes, ears and, ultimately wallets to your brand or organization.

But to be clear: Influencers, unlike celebrities, can be anywhere and anyone. What makes them influential isn’t their latest blockbuster hit or rise to superstardom in sports; it’s their large followings on the internet and social media as well as their ability to affect people’s decisions and actions.

An influencer can be anyone from a popular fashion model on Instagram to a parenting expert with a well-read blog and podcast to a respected marketing guru on LinkedIn. Within any industry, there are influential people, and you can spot them by their thousands (if not millions) of followers. When you find an influencer who fits your niche and is relevant to your cause/mission—and willing to advocate for your nonprofit—you have an opportunity to form a partnership with someone who can dramatically expand your reach and help you grow awareness.

Let’s look first at the basics of influencer marketing and how it could benefit your organization.

How do I recognize a valuable influencer?

Effective influencers possess a combination of three key characteristics:

1. Reach and scale.

They have the ability to deliver a message to a large number of people. Maybe they have a well-trafficked blog, a dynamic social media presence with a large number of followers or they’re popular on the speaking circuit. Regardless of how they do it, they get their message out to growing numbers of listeners and typically have a loyal audience.

2. Credibility in their niche.

They’ve somehow proven their expertise in a specific industry or field, and because of that, people trust them and their opinions.

3. Persuasiveness.

Good influencers possess the ability to convince people of their point of view. They’re often good salesmen or debaters, and many have a certain charisma about them. Clear with their messages, they explain things in convincing ways and deliver their points of view with confidence.

When you align with an influencer who’s relevant to your organization and audience, you have the potential to leverage their network to grow awareness for your organization, plus drive traffic and conversions on your site because good influencers are just that, well, influential.

Why work with influencers?

First, it can effectively present your organization to a new audience and gain potential donors and volunteers. It can also increase your organization’s legitimacy with the public, especially those who aren’t familiar with your nonprofit. This can be particularly helpful for new organizations. Some influencers can get your organization good press. Others will be more adept at helping to drive traffic to your site. It just depends on their strengths and where they have the most clout.

How do I know who is right for my cause?

Identify your goals. Do you simply want to reach a lot of people in order to grow awareness for your organization? Do you want to boost your fundraising efforts? Are you trying to reach more women or men? Are you trying to engage with a specific demographic you’ve struggled to connect with? When you know what you’re trying to accomplish with an influencer marketing strategy, you can then begin to narrow down the type of influencer you want.

How do I locate influencers?

Here are five ways to help you begin:

1. Email lists.

That’s right—you may have an influencer or two already associated with your organization who you don’t know about. These would be people already aligned with your cause and would probably be inclined to share content for you. Start combing your lists.

2. Google search.

This isn’t exactly rocket science, but if you’re looking for a specific type of influencer, search engines may be your friend. Get to Googling.

3. Analytics

Use your social media analytics to see your organization’s top Facebook and Twitter mentions. Look at which of those mentions have a significant number of shares or retweets—that person could be a potential influencer.

4. Social media.

Scan through Instagram or Twitter hashtags related to your cause. You may find an influencer worth exploring.

5. Networking.

If you know specifically what or who you’re looking for in an influencer, start asking around: your board members, social networks, volunteers, staff, corporate sponsors, other organizations, community members and local networking events. Good old word of mouth and spreading the word can sometimes be the most effective tool for connecting you with the right person.

Once I locate one, then what do I do?

There is no one right way to reach out to influencers. However, there are a few key considerations you should keep in mind.

1. Do your research.

Get to know them on social media. In fact, engage with them and their content. Share their posts, leave comments and likes—this is a good first step toward relationship building. Acknowledge their value and relevance to your nonprofit.

2. Think “relationship.”

You’re not trying to hire a celebrity; you’re hoping to partner with a highly influential and effective potential brand evangelist—so building a relationship is important. Even though no cash may be exchanging hands, many influencers might want to know you have a partnership in mind that could be mutually beneficial long-term.

3. Be clear about what you’re asking for.

Keep it easy and simple in the beginning. You don’t know each other well yet, and your expectations should align with the length of your relationship. If a partnership grows, you can explore tasks or asks down the road that involve a heavier commitment.

Is influencer marketing worth it?

If you do it right, influencer marketing could greatly increase your organization’s reach and further your impact both online and off. Keep in mind that the underlying goal of influencer marketing is advocacy. Influencer marketing should be honest. Authentic. Real. You want an influencer to speak positively and passionately about your nonprofit because that’s how they really feel. Therefore, influencer marketing takes time, dedication and patience.

When done right, influencer marketing leverages the reach, credibility and passion of a few people with a large audience who are willing to advocate for your organization and help you grow your mission.

Of course, influencer marketing is just one part of an overarching marketing strategy. There are many other components, and at Firespring, we specialize in helping nonprofits, businesses and brands create and optimize several parts of both a traditional and digital marketing plan, from social media marketing and their website to email marketing and direct mail. How can we help you optimize and integrate your marketing efforts in order to raise both more money and awareness? Get in touch and let’s talk.