A social media influencer, a hashtag and a cause got together…

Who exactly is a social media influencer?

A magical unicorn, of course, who knows his or her way around the ever-changing landscape of social media. When it comes to “Internetting,” these other-worldly creatures know exactly what to say, what to do — and somehow, everyone follows suit.

Jokes aside, social media influencers are basically trusted voices that steer the conversation online. They could be celebrities or friends or complete strangers, but they all share a couple of things in common: a massive following and prolific, engaging content.

An increasing number of companies are now investing more resources in “influencer marketing” to promote their brands — and for good reason. In one study, around 40% of respondents claimed to have purchased something online after seeing it used by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter, Vine or YouTube.

So where does your organization fit into the picture? More and more nonprofits are starting to leverage the power of these figures with great results — and you can too! Here are a few successful examples that your nonprofit can learn from:

  1. Brandon Stanton, Humans of New York

    In a list like this, it’s almost imperative to mention one of the biggest social media stars around — Humans of New York founder, Brandon Stanton. This immensely popular photographer is known as much for his candid shots of New Yorkers as for his philanthropic efforts. Stanton’s most recent fundraiser for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center — Sanky’s client — raised well over $3 million in just two weeks to fund research at MSK’s Pediatrics Department. His messaging strategy is simple, effective and authentic. People listen to him because he has a true story to tell, and more importantly, because he understands that for people to donate, they need to feel connected to the cause.

  2. Tyler Oakley, The Trevor Project

    Twenty-seven-year-old YouTube vlogger Tyler Oakley has racked up more than 8 million subscribers because of his super charming — and endearing — online persona. Through his videos, this internet icon and LGBTQ activist is making sure to spread a message of positivity — and it’s translated to fundraising too. For two years in a row, he’s raised money (over $500K last time) for The Trevor Project, an organization that focuses on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth.

  3. Ad Council’s “I Am a Witness”

    When the Ad Council launched its “I Am a Witness” campaign on Snapchat last year to tackle cyber bullying, the response was phenomenal. Several Snapchat influencers started creating unique content and before long, 10 million users were personalizing the campaign’s filters. It ended up being potentially more effective than a traditional 30-second PSA.

  4. Boxed Water’s “Retree Project”

    Boxed Water worked with Instagram influencers like Jaime King and Megan DeAngelis to spread awareness about the Retree Project, their philanthropic campaign with the National Forest Foundation. For every Instagram picture that had the hashtag #Retree, Boxed Water promised to plant two trees. So far, they’ve planted over 66,000 trees!

What these examples teach us is that social media influencers can impact your nonprofit’s audience in a far greater way than ever before.

Of course, it goes without saying, it’s vital to find someone who is genuinely interested in your cause because, like we’ve seen with Humans of New York, authenticity works best. Remember, the key is to partner with an influencer who best reflects your organization’s mission – so they can effectively raise awareness and inspire action!

Shefali Rao


Shefali Rao

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