Love it or hate it, influencer marketing works. And, when you actually sit down and take a look at why, it’s really not all that surprising.
This doesn’t mean your nonprofit should dive into the influencer marketing world head first—there are a few things you can learn and approaches you can take to up the return on investment (ROI) of your influencer campaign.
But, before we get too carried away, what is influencer marketing? And, why is it so popular?
What is influencer marketing?
Well, depending on who you ask, influencer marketing is:
… businesses partnering with individuals with a significant social media presence to market their products and services.
- Mailchimp (Intuit)
… a collaboration between popular social-media users and brands to promote brands’ products or services.
- McKinsey & Co.
… a brand collaborating with an online influencer to market one of its products or services.
- Influencer Marketing Hub
We prefer that last two. Why? Because it’s hard to define “significant social media presence” and, more importantly, just because an influencer has a “significant social media presence”, that doesn’t mean that their audience is engaged. And, when it comes to influencer marketing, engagement is super important.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we should probably talk about what exactly an influencer is…
What is an influencer? And, do they exist in the nonprofit sector?
The real definition of an influencer is someone or something that influences another. But, these days we need to take it a step further:
A person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.
- Oxford Languages (Google)
So, do influencers exist in the nonprofit sector? Yes. If a sector exists online, you can find influencers influencing.
Why is everyone so obsessed with influencers—nonprofits included?
It’s true. Brands, businesses, governments, nonprofits, everyone is obsessed with influencers (AKA: content creators). How do we know? Well, in 2022, the influencer industry was $16.4 billion and more than 75% of brands had a dedicated influencer marketing budget.1 Those budgets varied quite a bit: from around $200 to over $100,000 per post.
And the results?
The Harvard Business Review found that an increase of 1% in an influencer marketing budget resulted in a 0.5% increase in engagement.1 That may not sound like a lot, but when we’re talking of average engagement rates in 2022 of 0.5% to 4.25%, depending on the platform, a 0.5% boost can have a pretty big impact.2
It’s all platform dependent.
Not all social media platforms perform in the same way, and that’s okay because they each serve a different audience and a different purpose.
TikTok has the most engaged users at 4.42% in 2022 (but has been steadily decreasing for the past couple years).2 However, their user base is younger and might not be your target audience.
Instagram is next with an average of 0.60% in 2022.2 Instagrams user base is varied, but the platform’s more brand awareness and views than actual engagement.
Facebook has been holding steady at an engagement rate of around 0.15%.2
Twitter’s average engagement rate was 0.05% in 2022.2
Now that you know your nonprofit should be using influencer marketing, how do you include influencer marketing in your social media campaigns?
1. Make a social media plan for your nonprofit.
Well, first things first, make sure you have a social media plan and budget. This will help you determine when and where you might need the help of an influencer. (Think pre, during and post big fundraising event, your next peer-to-peer campaign, etc.)
2. Decide which platform(s) you'll focus on.
Up next, decide which platform(s) you’d like to focus on. You can do this by looking at your stats on each platform and either: a) reinforcing your strengths or b) work to increase your presence on a less popular platform.
3. Keep your target audience in mind.
Keep in mind your target audience and type of work you’re doing:
- Facebook is a good catchall with 73% of North Americans aged 35 to 54 using it. But, only 32% of teenagers use Facebook. (Down from 71% in 2015.)6
- If your cause is highly photographic, consider Instagram. It's the most used social media platform for people aged 12 to 34 and 62% of teenagers use it in North America.6
- Twitter (now called X for some reason) is the 5th most visited website in the world and is a good way to get the media's attention.6
- TikTok is used by 67% of Americans aged 18 to 19. (And they spend on average 55 minutes on the app every day.)
4. Start reaching out.
Once you’ve got a plan and budget in place, start reaching out to influencers on your chosen platform(s). The more personal your messages, the better.
5. Start small.
We recommend committing to one or two posts to kick things off. (Unless you’re 100% sure the influencer/content creator is going to be an amazing fit.) If their posts perform well, you can double down and continue to work with them. If not, well, you’ve only committed to one or two posts.