Influencers can drive a lot of attention and engagement toward your cause. But for the partnership to work, it takes the right influencer and an association that knows how to negotiate and collaborate effectively.
When thinking through your cause-marketing strategy, working with an influencer might not spring to mind. But influencers are powerful persuaders who have built trust with their audiences. On top of that, influencers tend to prioritize authenticity—a useful trait for cause marketing—says Kristy Sammis, executive director of the Influencer Marketing Association.
“A lot of influencers won’t take work if it doesn’t make sense for who they are,” she says. Consider these tips to find the right influencers for your cause-marketing efforts and how to collaborate with them effectively.
Before venturing out into the world of influencers, take a look in-house—the right influencer could be a member of your organization. “I guarantee that any association has members who are natural advocates, because they’re already members and they have a good following across social media,” Sammis says.
If a member has a strong online presence, ask if they would be willing to advocate for your association and its cause. To promote participation, you could offer member incentives such as discounts and special benefits, similar to a member referral program.
Search With Focus
If you look outside your association, you’ll want to find an influencer who naturally aligns with your cause, not just someone with a large following. Instead of mass-emailing stock messages to a bunch of popular influencers—which Sammis calls the “spray and pray” method—identify ones who fit your niche and reach out to them.
A simple online search is a good place to start. To narrow your search, check Twitter and Instagram to see who’s been using hashtags that relate to your cause or organization.
Take advantage of tools that go deeper: The free site Upfluence offers an influencer search tool, and Influence.co provides a platform where you can build relationships with influencers. Platforms like these offer data on an influencer’s performance, so you’ll get a sense for how effective his or her messaging is. As you search, keep in mind that featuring diverse and underrepresented voices will benefit your organization, as inclusive marketing is on the rise.
Once you’ve identified candidates, do your research: Look at their entire social media presence to make sure they are truly compatible with your association’s message.
“Even if you’re expecting them to post on Instagram, see what they’re saying on Twitter,” Sammis says. “It’s about looking at the whole picture.”
Find an Influencer Who Prizes Authenticity
In cause marketing, you’re asking an influencer to advocate for a cause, not a product, which is why the message needs to be genuine. Sammis says influencers who post only sponsored content might not be your best bet because the message won’t seem as authentic.
Look for someone who populates his or her feed with a balance of sponsored and nonsponsored content—a sign that the influencer knows how to work with a brand while maintaining a distinct, authentic voice.
To see a successful example of this, look to the the Arbor Day Foundation, a nonprofit that partnered with popular YouTube content creators Jimmy Donaldson (better known as MrBeast) and Mark Rober on the viral #TeamTrees campaign, a fundraiser with the goal of planting 20 million trees. Donaldson’s and Rober’s positions as authentic, influential voices attracted major publicity and led to $20 million in donations in just a few months.
When approaching influencers, it’s useful to have a specific plan of action to present to them—where they’ll post, how often, the type of content, and so forth. But Sammis says that associations will not get the best out of influencers if they treat them as if they’re freelance copywriters or photographers instead of collaborators.
“Influencers love to be consulted, to be collaborative, and to be given the freedom to be creative,” she says. Give influencers a chance to push back on your original idea and offer their own, as they’ll be most effective when using their own words in a genuine way.
That said, cause marketing could have you talking about serious or sensitive topics, so it’s reasonable for associations to provide guidelines on tone, topics to avoid, and what language is appropriate.
Negotiate With Industry Benchmarks in Mind
It’ll help to have a sense of what to offer influencers based on their reach and what you’re asking of them. Sammis says while cost fluctuates from one influencer to another, an expected charge from a micro-influencer (someone with 10,000 to 50,000 followers) for a single Instagram post would be $300 to $500. Sammis says payment is usually preferred, but benefits such as a membership in your organization are appropriate as well.
Some organizations may bristle at paying an influencer on ethical grounds, but Sammis argues that it’s not payment for a glowing recommendation.
“You’re not paying the influencer for their favored opinion—you’re paying the influencer for their time, for their creativity, for the effort that they’re putting into this,” she says.