How to Start an Influencer Campaign

Social media influencers are the largest untapped opportunity for most organizations. Not only can influencers reach 200x more people than a typical database, they offer a way to spread your message through the most effective marketing tactic, word of mouth.

Social media influencers are people who are active on one or more social networks, with a modest to large following, who can drive action around your campaigns.

The role of social media influencers (aka influencers), is to help generate buzz around key calls to action such as a Twitter storm, time sensitive fundraiser, release of an exciting report, key vote and so on. Think of your influencers as a channel to reach and mobilize new audiences

Influencer driven campaigns empower your supporters to spread your message to their own, like-minded social networks.

Choose Your Campaign

Start with something that has a clear and exciting call to action. For example, Global Fund for Women asked their influencers to participate in a selfie challenge which earned $1 for every selfie shared on Giving Tuesday.

Identify Your Influencers

Find existing influencers in your CRM, email list or petitions. Ideally, you’ll want to segment them into 3 types of influencers and develop a communication strategy for each segment. Download our guide, How to Identify and Engage Your Influencers, for more in-depth tips.

Make the Ask

A few days before the push, send a short email and direct message (DM) that explains why they should participate in the campaign and what you need them to do. For example, when Communication Workers of America DM’d 300 influencers who they found in their email list, 23% ended up participating by sending personal tweets to their network.

When approaching high touch influencers like VIP’s, use this same idea but first get on their radar by following them and sending some social love. Since few people frame your issues as well as your organization, it’s more important that the content of high level influencers doesn’t conflict with your message. Check out our blog for more tips on how to approach your social media influencers.

Invite to a Campaign Call

Go the extra mile by inviting your influencers to a special campaign call to get them excited about your campaign. American Friends Service Committee regularly invites their influencers and active supporters to monthly Google Hangouts to inform them how AFSC is addressing key issues and how folks can get involved.

Provide Toolkits

Make it easy for influencers to share your message by creating a landing page with sample messaging, pics, video, links, etc. Depending on the time you have, this could range from including text and images in a Google doc to style toolkits.

Exclusive Access

Special content tailored for influencers shows your appreciation while educating your new spokespeople about the campaign. Offer things like sneak previews of reports, campaigns or update from the Board President.

Engage During the Campaign

Take the opportunity to show social love by liking, commenting or Retweeting your influencers or anyone who participates in the campaign. As basic as this sounds, acknowledging their involvement is one of the most important steps in building your people power.

Thank and Update

Send a short email with the results of the campaign. Influencers will be FAR more likely to participate in future campaigns if they’re thanked and kept in the loop.

Community Building

Provide a space to build community and let influencers share stories of their involvement and impact. Use the momentum to deepen engagement by letting your advocates know what they can do for the next push. In addition to providing toolkits, think about offering regular training to give your supporters  the skills they need to make a greater impact.

Segment in CRM

Make a note in your CRM of your most engaged influencers so you can give them special attention going forward. If possible, see who drove the most action such as likes, shares, traffic, etc. Below is a screenshot of Attentive.y which shows how to group your influencers (and push back to your CRM).


Create an Ambassador Program

Borrow a move from Tweet for Hillary by offering people the opportunity to join your program on your website. Some organizations refer to their programs publicly as “ambassador” programs.

Enlist Your Staff

If you’re an large organization, think about enlisting your staff in your social media program. For example, Human Rights Watch started their social media influencer program using their own staff to grow their list to 3M followers! The Ford Theatre trains their staff as social media ambassadors to provide more behind-the-scenes access to their work while cultivating diverse voices throughout their institution.

With a structured approach, you’ll build buzz, generate action at scale, and turn those influencers into your lasting advocates for your campaigns.

Jeanette Russell
About Jeanette Russell

Passionate to engage stakeholders to solve technical and political issues through transformational initiatives. My deep understanding of technology, partnerships, marketing, advocacy, fundraising, nonprofits, startups and self-directed nature is my brand. I’ve created extensive partner networks, coalitions, spearheaded innovative campaigns and significantly increased revenue/funding for purpose driven ventures.

Posted in Advocacy, Influencers

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