27th January 2017

Harnessing the power of influencers in the not-for-profit sector

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With so much content vying for audience’s attentions, charities have to be even more creative when it comes to raising their profile and reaching audiences online. Paid advertising alone might generate reach, but if you want the audience to take notice then your message needs to be amplified by those who have the power to influence and broadcast your message to new audiences.

Charities are now taking note of the benefits of using influencers, bloggers and vloggers to get their message out there in ways that they may not have been able to before. In fact, according to research by influencer marketing platform Buzzoole, nearly a third of influencers promote charities on a regular basis.

Of course, when it comes to influencers – authenticity is key. They need to have a genuine interest in the cause or a natural connection with your brand, perhaps from their own personal experience.

A recent example of effective influencer activity can be seen in the Samaritans latest campaign #BrewMonday. The charity put a clever spin on the most depressing day of the year, aka ‘Blue Monday’ by getting people to put the kettle on and share their woes over a cup of tea. Various celebrities showed their support, including former premiership footballer Leon Mckenzie - a mental health ambassador.

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Identifying potential influencers

So how do you go about finding the right influencers to support your cause? Well, there are various tools that you can use to find potential influencers as well as a number of paid-for platforms and influencer networks that will do the groundwork for you.

Buzzsumo, which is great at helping with content ideas, also allows you to search for Influencers based on a keyword, topic or domain, while providing some helpful metrics so you can see at a glance how their content is performing and rank them based on your preferred key metric.

Another handy tool is Followerwonk, where a quick keyword search will bring up a list of relevant Twitter profiles as well as their ‘social authority’. Pinterest is also proving to be another popular platform for finding new and emerging influencers, but don’t forget that your perfect influencers might already be following and mentioning your organisation, so it pays to take advantage of a social listening tool to identify and utilise potential influencers which are closer to home.

5 top tips for selecting and working with influencers

Relevance is key: Influencers don’t necessarily fit a certain mould – they could be industry experts, up-and-coming photographers, make-up artists - the list is endless. But their target audience needs to be the right fit for your campaign. At the same time, the content they create should be relevant to your chosen topic. Have a read through their posts – perhaps they blog about beauty and lifestyle but also document their struggles with a certain condition which relates to your own cause.

Sometimes, the collaboration doesn’t have to be an obvious match – in fact the more creative it is, the more successful it can be. Refuge UK, teamed up with YouTube artist Lauren Luke to produce a poignant video on how to cover up bruises to the face and neck from domestic violence. The video has over 2.5 million views and over 21,000 likes on YouTube and demonstrates how an influencer in a specific niche can support a charity by delivering a powerful message in the same way she would normally communicate with her audience – through a simple make-up tutorial.

Engagement rates: Influencers tend to have a large and loyal fan base, garnered from their expertise and authority in a certain area. You should look for someone who posts regularly and interacts with their fans. Is their audience interested in what they have to say? Have a quick read of the comments on their blog and social posts to see whether the overall sentiment is positive.

While a large fan base shows they have spent time building up a community of followers, you shouldn’t always overlook someone just because their following doesn’t rival Zoella’s. A study by Markerly shows that when it comes to Instagram, micro-influencers (those with between 10,000 – 100,000 followers) tend to get much higher engagement rates.

Ask for data: There is no guarantee that a campaign will go viral but there are steps you can take to ensure your campaign has the best chance. Always ask for website and social analytics. Does their site have a high Domain Authority? While this isn’t the be all and end all, it certainly helps to know that it ranks well on search engines. Also request some key metrics – how many unique visitors does their blog receive on a monthly basis? How much traffic do they get from organic search?

If they’ve collaborated with brands in the past, it’s also worthwhile finding out not just the outcome, but how they actively supported and played a part in a campaign and the KPI’s used to measure success.

Professionalism matters: While influencers are expected to disclose if they have received payment to front a campaign, the idea of professionalism doesn’t just stop there. When your charity is associated with an influencer, you want to ensure damage limitation. Any hint of unprofessionalism should signal alarm bells. Copy littered with spelling mistakes could indicate a slapdash approach, and while there’s nothing wrong with someone sharing a strong opinion (after all, their fans are interested in their views), if they are constantly upsetting or offending people, then this is something you need to be mindful of, especially as it could lead to implications for your own organisation. Remember, when you work with an influencer you have no (or limited) control over what they post.

Make them feel valued: Take time to consider how you can make the partnership mutually beneficial. As a charity, the likelihood is you will want to keep marketing spend to a minimum, but be aware that these days the majority of influencers and bloggers will want to know what’s in it for them. Many expect an incentive for their time and efforts, and some influencers will have media packs and rate cards which can be requested in advance. However, it’s worth noting that some celebrities such as Stephen Fry, have famously refused payment in return for putting their name to a cause.

From the very outset you should be thinking of ways to ensure the partnership can evolve:

  • Will the collaboration help raise their profile? If they’ve not been linked to a charity before then this might present them with an exciting opportunity
  • If you’re working to tackle something they have an interest in, then the likelihood is they will be more willing to lend a helping hand. They may want to be involved first-hand, and by their very nature, influencers are creative, so don’t be afraid to sit down and brainstorm – the end results could be a very impactful campaign.

Whether you search for influencers who have a vested interest in not-for-profits or if you go more granular and reach out to the influencers of your chosen target market, you are bound to find that influencer marketing can provide the credibility and amplification you need, and equimedia is ideally placed to help kickstart your strategy in 2017.