Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

December 18, 2013

How to get a Justin Bieber on board with your nonprofit

Sara Choe

As you foray into online fundraising for your nonprofit, you might have stumbled upon the term “social media influencer”. You might wonder what that is exactly and where would you even get one of those.

A social media influencer is simply a person whose online presence carries weight. There are many kinds of influencers, but they share the following qualities:

1. Credibility

An influencer has had to earn their audience’s trust in some way, and more trust means longer attention spans.

Being an expert in a field is one way an influencer gains credibility. Physicians like Sanjay Gupta or Dr. Oz are influential – the former as a CNN medical correspondent and the latter as host of the eponymous television show – primarily due to their medical expertise.

2. Reach

Social media influencers have extensive audiences. They have numerous followers across several platforms; sometimes there are overlaps; that is to say, one might follow a blogger both on Facebook and Twitter. For example, author, blogger and speaker Jon Acuff has more than 49,000 fans on Facebook and nearly 186,000 followers on Facebook.

3. Quality engagement

The influencer’s audience is marked by quantity and quality. That is to say, she has many meaningful interactions with most of her many followers. Her followers not only consume her content but share it with their respective audiences.

Searching for Social Media Influencers

Now that you know who social media influencers are, you need to learn how to connect with those who would best advocate for your organization.

Hint: An influencer’s celebrity doesn’t translate into being an effective endorser of your cause. While not impossible, an urban fashionista probably would not be the best spokesperson for a nonprofit focused on promoting sustainable agriculture in the global south. A food critic who writes extensively about organic farming and shopping at farmers’ markets, on the other hand, would be a better fit.

Finding the right social media influencers involves more than just referring to industry and social rankings; you’ll have to do your own research to identify these key people. Fortunately, searching for them is not like trying to find Waldo.

Basically, you’ll be relying heavily on search engines and social media to find and befriend these influencers. Here are our tips on engaging with social media influencers.

1. Search online

Search for content –news articles, blogposts, research papers, trade magazines and books – germane to your field of work. Note the authors and their respective sources.

Chances are you’ve already come across these names if you’re already keeping up your industry’s news. Create a spreadsheet where you can record and keep track of these names.

2. “Stalk” them

Plug these names into Twitter and start following them. Add their handles to your spreadsheet and note other interesting facts about them.

Do likewise on other channels, such as Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube. Skim through their information and content, and record your findings in your spreadsheet.

Sometimes, social media channels are search engines unto themselves. Run a Twitter search for industry keywords to find people that your Google (or Bing or Yahoo!) search might have overlooked.

3. Measure their social influence

Use Klout or a similar platform to get detailed, statistical analyses of the influencers’ influence. You can use these tools to find more influencers, too.

4. Determine your targets

Now that you’ve gathered information on the persons of interest, narrow the field of candidates. You’re free to lend as much or as little weight to the myriad opinions on the who’s who in the social media sphere.

But at the end of the day, only you can decide who is right for your cause and your campaign. One factor you might consider could be how much time you can devote to engaging with these influencers, in addition to their degree of relevance.

5. Organize them

Once you’ve finalized your selection of social media influencers, group them by categories of your choice. You can create lists on Twitter and circles on Google+ to help manage your interactions.

You can publicize or keep private the lists/circles you make. If you opt to share your lists publicly, be careful how you display them; avoid giving the impression that you’re familiar with these people if you actually haven’t met them before.

6. Interact with them

Across the various platforms, start following your chosen influencers. Listen to what they’re saying. Respond to their thoughts. Start conversations. Ask questions.

This is a marathon, not a sprint

Remember that influencers are ultimately people to connect with, not instruments to be played. So offer ways to serve them; in that way, both your mission and your influencers benefit.

For more info, read our free online guide on social media influencers.

Sara Choe is an online fundraising expert at CauseVox, a crowdfunding platform for nonprofits and social good projects.


  • At 6:41 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

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  • At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Michael said…

    A social media influencer is someone who can really drive your site insane. People who are attached to their favorite celebrity would tend to do the same way. Given the fact a celebrity tweets your company or business you will get instant hits from all over the world.


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