Being a Good Influence: How to Use Influencer Marketing for Just Causes

Everywhere you look, there’s a worthy cause that could use some help. Animal shelters, clean water, cancer research, hurricane relief…really, too many to list. Many of us identify with efforts near and dear to our hearts and contribute what we can when we can. And when we see a brand that’s making an effort to donate and help, we’ll often consider choosing it over another. Today, we’re going to go over how this can relate to influencer marketing. Whether you work for one of these charities or non-profits that needs a boost, or you’re a brand that could both help and benefit from being associated with a certain cause, there’s something in this post for you.

Sweet Charity

Face it…every business could use some positive marketing strategies. And if you work for a charity or non-profit, you’re not an exception. In fact, influencer marketing may be the one tactic that helps you hit your goal. People want authenticity and honesty, and nowhere is this more true than social cause. Donors want to know what situation needs help, where their dollars will be going, and how it winds up helping those in need.

Step 1: Choosing an influencer who is already familiar or involved with your cause is the first step. Sure, a celebrity holding a puppy may boost donations to a local shelter, but, working with an expert or authority that has experience in your specific field will have an audience already focused on your cause, and likely ready to help however they can. It may be a smaller reach, but targeted and devoted quality should always outperform random quantity.

Step 2: Vet your potential partners for relevant content, consistent messaging and regular engagement with their audience. Have them share some of your messaging on their social networks to gauge responses…if there’s a gap in authenticity or relevance, it’ll likely show in the reaction to these posts.

Step 3: Include them in your cause when applicable, and have the influencers document it for their own content—a firsthand look at pick-up day at a local food bank or visit to a children’s hospital will not only provide content, but will likely deliver an emotional impact that you can’t make up. Have them interview some of those in need, and some who are delivering the help, also.

Step 4: To wrap up the experience, put them in touch with those who have received and benefitted from the help. This may involve retaining these influencers for the long-term, but that’s a good thing. Documenting the good work your company does from beginning to end, in their own organic way, should increase awareness and donations in a way that your own content can’t.

Give and You Shall Receive

It’s just as likely that you work for a for-profit brand or marketing agency, and would like to see how getting involved in a social cause would impact your business. In this survey, we get to know the belief-driven buyer: consumers who will support a brand that stands up for or supports causes, political beliefs, or other issues that align with that consumer. Over half of each of the coveted generational buying groups (Gen X, Millennial, Gen Z) self-identify as belief-driven buyers, with 66% of Millennials in the U.S. buying based on shared beliefs. That’s a huge number, and, depending on where you’re located and the type of cause you back, it could easily be higher. There’s a couple ways to interpret this, however.

Safe Causes

There are plenty of “safe” causes that almost anyone of any group will support and becoming involved with these would be generally favorable. Donating a percentage of certain sales or matching pledges are generally accepted ways to help. Raising money for children’s causes, fighting widespread diseases like cancer, or combatting hunger will likely be viewed favorably, and it shouldn’t be hard to identify influencers who would leverage their reach to help.

Understand, however, that there’s probably lots of other companies participating in a similar campaign for the same thing. Hosting or sponsoring an event, like a road race or benefit concert, can help you stand out…especially if it involves your employees (who, quite often, have a fair bit of influence and reach themselves).

Like we discussed above, having influencers on the ground floor participating in an event, interviewing participants or keeping a running total of donations really helps with exposure. Be careful with your tone, however; coming across as preachy, demanding, or insistent can be a huge turnoff. Also, make sure you announce a report on your final effort, as everyone wants to know how much difference they made.

Controversial Causes

Other causes are more controversial, such as immigration, gun control, or various equality stances. These stances can swing radically in either direction, and it’s likely that you’ll lose more than a few consumers by affirming your beliefs publicly. That said, the ones who do share your beliefs will support and defend your brand fiercely. 67% of those surveyed have purchased from a brand for the first time because of their public stance on a hot-button issue, 51% will buy that brand exclusively and more often, and 48% will publicly advocate for and defend that brand against critics. That’s a lot of influence, not to mention brand awareness.

High risk usually means high reward, and this is no exception. Before you make your views known, do a thorough self-inspection of your brand, including stances held by previous owners/management and current employees…one contrary tweet by one of your many workers can send the whole thing crashing down. Do the same research on your influencers; passionate advocates can say all sorts of things that may run contrary to your mission. Make sure to keep messaging in line, as your inevitable critics should be dealt with in direct but polite language. Having a team of influencers who have boundaries that are wide but firm gives a structure to your position and makes it easier for them to comply. Lastly, it’s never a bad idea to find like-minded brands to ally and join forces with; there’s power in numbers and social proof, and there’s plenty of good ideas to learn from.

Whatever the result or cause, make sure you actually care and truly support every aspect of it. Good acts beget more good acts…and your bottom line will likely come along for the ride. Have you ever aligned your brand with a cause? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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