How to Engage With Influencers and Champion Your Cause

Running a campaign with influencers can be a highly effective way of amplifying your charities digital efforts. Whether you’re fundraising, awareness raising, or simply trying to reach new audiences, influencers can help by championing the work your organisation is doing to a new network of people.

There has been a lot of noise recently about the lack of digital skills in the charity sector, with 45% of charities reporting having no digital strategy according to the 2018 Charity Digital Skills Report. However, research from The Lloyds Bank Business Digital Index showed charities using social media are 51% more likely to receive an increase in donations, and it has been widely acknowledged that the sector needs to transform for the digital age. For many charities time and resources are limited, and enlisting the help of influencers is a great opportunity to have savvy social media champions help your organisation to become more digitally engaged by talking about the work you are doing online.

So what is an influencer? An influencer is a person with a large number of followers, usually 10,000 or more, on social media. This could be on one platform, such as Instagram or YouTube, or it could be across a number of different platforms. Depending on your organisation, and the type of campaign you are running, will depend on the type of influencer you want to work with. As well as influencers, there are also micro-influencers. Micro-influencers have a smaller social media following, starting from around 1,000 followers, however their audiences tend to be highly active and very engaged, which can often be more beneficial for charities and non-profits — especially if you work in a slightly more niche area. Think of an influencer as a digital ambassador for your cause.

When your charity is planning its next campaign, here are a number of steps you can take to include social media influencers in order to amplify your message:

1. Choose relevant influencers
Whether it’s an influential Instagrammer or an A-list celeb, you need to choose influencers carefully. It’s crucial to make sure there’s a real connection between a potential influencers and your cause, otherwise it won’t be successful. Clerkenwell Boy (also known as Tim) knows all to well the power of successfully harnessing influencers for a cause. As a social media influencer with 173k followers on Instagram, Tim created the Cook For Syria campaign and has raised over £500,000 globally with proceeds donated to aid children impacted by the war. One reason this worked so well and resonated with his followers is because he continued the theme of food from his Instagram account to the charity campaign, so that his followers would be interested. Similarly, according to Skye O’Neill, the influencer behind @GeorgianLondon, “the best relationships I’ve had with charities, and with brands and PR companies in general, are where there is a good, natural fit between the kinds of images I’m already posting on Instagram and my interests in general, and the work of that charity or organisation.”

2. Make sure you do due diligence
Only work with influencers who have a good track record. Last year, a well-known YouTuber called PewDiePie was working with Disney when videos emerged of him making anti-Semitic comments online. There was a huge backlash, and consequently Disney ended the campaign and relationship. Although this is an extreme example, it’s important to ensure that there are no skeletons in the influencer’s closet.

3. Don’t get hung up on numbers
Your influencer doesn’t have to be a celebrity. It’s more important to ensure that the influencer’s audience is one that will suit your audience. If they’re on Instagram but your audience is on Twitter, it won’t be successful. Erin Niimi Longhurst, micro-influencer and blogger behind Island Bell, points out that the influencer, and influencers’ audience, also have to resonate with the cause: “I write about things in a specific niche or area, and in my own voice. In order for me to champion a cause it needs to be close to my heart for it to be authentic and make the biggest impact with my audience.”

4. Build a relationship
Reaching out to an influencer doesn’t have to be a formal affair — send them a tweet, or give them a social media shout-out to let them know they’re on your radar!

5. Think of it as a partnership
Think of influencers as partners, not as a sounding board, and cultivate meaningful and long-lasting relationships with them.

6. Keep it simple
Minimise risk and stay relevant and ‘on-message’ by providing your influencers with a ‘Social Media Toolkit’. This will provide clearly established guidelines for social media activity that your influencers can refer to. Include background information on your cause, campaign goals, sample tweets and posts with accompanying images or graphics, and a content calendar with a list of important dates for your campaign. Fashion Revolution has a great toolkit, which is worth checking out for inspiration.

7. Maintain the relationship
After the campaign has ended stay in touch with the influencer and update them on how they’ve helped. Skye O’Neill notes, “I’m happiest working with charities and organisations where we have an on-going relationship.” By maintaining this relationship you keep the door open to potential support from them in the future.

By running a campaign and harnessing influencers, your charity will gain a powerful online voice making some noise about your cause, which can be an extremely valuable asset, and the influencer can feel good about raising the profile of a worthy cause, particularly if its one that’s close to their heart.