Is Influencer Marketing Part of Your Nonprofit's Social Media Strategy? | Beth's Blog

Is Influencer Marketing Part of Your Nonprofit’s Social Media Strategy?

Digital Strategy

Rob Cottingham, Social Signal – Cartoon for Measuring the Networked Nonprofit

It is not too early to start thinking about your nonprofit’s social media strategy for 2018, including how you want to capitalize on social media trends that will have maximum impact in 2018. According to Lee Odom, influencer marketing is one of those trends. In a recent survey, 11% of marketers plan to focus on it in 2018.

Before social media, “Influencer Marketing,” was a matter of finding a celebrity who had an affinity for your organization’s brand or programs and the goal was to get them to talk about it with their audiences. Social Media has created an opportunity for people are not world famous to influence other people in their networks. And that can be a powerful if their networks are relevant to your nonprofit’s mission and programs.

The definition of an influencer is a trusted individual who embodies your nonprofit’s brand values and has a social media presence consisting of an engaged audience that can persuade other people to support your nonprofit’s programs.

There are a number of benefits to embracing influencer marketing that can lead to increased donations, visibility, trust, and engagement:

  • Your nonprofit can tap into their subject matter expertise, skills and get access to their professional network
  • Your nonprofit can co-create high quality content that is of value to your audience
  • Your nonprofit can have influencers share your content with their networks, expanding your reach and engagement
  • Your nonprofit can increase trust, and credibility by cultivating a relationship with influencers

Not all influencers are the same. There are Mega-Influencers and Micro-Influencers.  Mega-Influencers are social media celebrities who have amassed a significant number of followers on Instagram or Youtube or other social media platform.They could also be journalists, industry experts, or academics. Micro-Influencers are thought leaders in a specific niche, write books and blogs, deliver keynotes, create original content, and are consistently doing research. They may have smaller networks than Mega-Influencers, but people in their networks are paying attention, engage, and take action.

The Engage Blog has a different way to describe nonprofit influencers.

Everyday Influencer:  Individuals who is passionate about the organization’s program and has an online presence of 500-5,000 followers.  The key engagement opportunity is to give them some social media love and ask them to share your content. Read Blackbaud’s white paper on how to engage with them.

Blogger Influencer: Individuals who write a blog on a topic that is aligned with your organization’s mission and programs and has an online presence of 500-5,000 followers. The key engagement opportunity to work with them to create content about your program.

VIP Influencer:  Well-known celebrity or VIP is has a relationship or connect with your organization. The key engagement opportunity is to make them an ambassador and involve them in special campaigns.

The Buffer Blog states that the perfect influencers is someone who sits on the sweet spot between content creation and distribution.

It is important to understand that an influencer strategy takes time and effort and you must be thoughtful. It is based on developing a longer-relationship. It is not a transactional process like purchasing social media ads to extend your nonprofit’s reach. And, as Lee Odom points out, there are many ways to fail at influencer marketing.

Developing a strategy requires several steps:

Step 1: Identify goals

What do you want to achieve with your strategy?  Is it increasing exposure or other result?

Lee Odom recommends that being specific is the key to success. He suggests that you define your topic of influence or niche as precise as possible. This also drive influencer identification as well as influencer content, social media themes and SEO.  

Influencer marketing aims to build an experience and emotional connection between a nonprofit brand and its target audiences. This means building relevant content along the ladder of engagement:

Awareness:  The nonprofit works with the influencer to co-create or share inspirational content that illustrates why the nonprofit’s mission or programs are important to the influencer’s network.

Interest:    The nonprofit works with the influencer to co-create or share educational content that helps the influencer’s network understand how to use the program or build skills.

Decision:  The influencer shares your organization’s stories about how people have benefited from the nonprofit’s program or can answer questions or make introductions to other influencers for your nonprofit.

Action:   At this point, the influencer can share promotional content that let’s their audience know how to sign up to volunteer, donate, or whatever actionable objective your influencer marketing is supporting..

Advocacy:  The top of the ladder, the people in the influencer’s network become advocates for the nonprofit and its program by sharing content with their networks.

Step 2: Identify influencers

You need to create a list of credible people in your topic area that have established presence and network on social media. You may already know these individuals or you may also need to do some research, using a tool to analyze who is associated with particular keywords. Remember, the size of their network is less important than relevancy.  Lee Odom recommends a few techniques for finding influencers based on keyword research in this post.

There are a number of tools to do this research, many are free or low cost. For example,, which helps you analyze people on your email list, segment influencers on social media, and automate your messaging to influencers. (Stay tuned for a follow up blog post about some of these tools, but the Buffer Blog mentions a few in this post about influencer marketing and or in this post.)

Step 3: Cultivate Influencers

Once you’ve identified your list of influencers, start to give them some social media love by sharing their content.  Maybe you are sharing their content on your social media channels or you may be curating a blog post that links to their content. May you are providing schwag or inviting them to participate in events. Developing relationships with influencers is a critical component and like all relationship-based marketing, it takes time.

Step 4: Activate

After you have cultivate your list of influencers, the next step is to activate them for a particular campaign. This involves reaching out and asking them to share your content or better yet co-create an e-book, guest post, Twitter chat, or other content.

Step 5: Measure Results

Now it is time to track your campaign goals against actual results. This post from Social Media Examiner offers five ways to track the results of your influencer campaign. In Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, KD Paine and I devoted a chapter to measuring influencer campaigns for nonprofits.

Influencer marketing is a long game. It takes being intentional, patient, and thoughtful planning to get results. It is not a transnational approach like social advertising, but focused on building relationships for the long-term.

Has your nonprofit implemented an influencer campaign?  What were your results?  What did you learn?

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