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leveraging (micro) influencers with Christina Edwards

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Have you ever had a fundraising brainstorming session when suddenly celebrity names start being thrown around? I’ve had more than one organization literally say that they “just need to get in front of Drake”, and that this will solve all of their fundraising and branding problems as if the sky would open and rain money. Now, that's not usually how it works, but we're seeing a lot more niche or micro-influencers having a really powerful impact in the for-profit world, as well as in the nonprofit world.

In today’s podcast episode, we’re going to talk about influencer marketing with Christina Edwards, the founder of Splendid Consulting, a marketing expert, and a coach, and she will show you how to work with influencers to grow your small nonprofit and amplify your social impact.

Myths that Christina wants us to walk away from:

  • Influencer marketing doesn’t work with small nonprofits. Influencers are used to being paid but a lot of these people, especially on Instagram or TikTok, want to be part of the change, they want to be part of making their world or their community or their neighborhood, a better place. We just need to find influencers who care and resonate with our cause and highlight the benefit to them.

  • Influencers need to have large followings. Micro-influencers, who have 900 or 2000 followers are also powerful and sometimes even more powerful than influencers with 5 million followers because that person usually has a higher engagement level and is also very specific to what they talk about and that could be specific to your location or a cause of your organization.

Christina’s thoughts around influencer marketing for nonprofits

  • Make it fun and easy. Working with an influencer should feel fun and easy for the influencer. If it's not fun and it's not easy, then this is a business opportunity and we need to pay them for their time. This should feel like an added value for them because they're partnering with you. We give them done-for-you assets, we give them done-for-you copy, we give them done-for-you graphics. You don't want to overwhelm them and the factor here is that you want to make sure that they feel that they're part of something and that they're not launching something on their own.

  • Connect with influencers. Meet them where they are. Start by warming up before you make the ask. Interact, share and comment on their content in an authentic way. This should be a partnership that feels well aligned, fun, and easy for both people. You can also develop relationships with influencer agencies, managers, or publicists.

  • Make influencers your brand ambassadors and partners. Influencers are used to being paid for and they typically need to create a lot of content. In this sense, it's not a heavy lift for them if you give them done-for-you assets. The second thing is that we're really highlighting the benefit to them. They want to be part of something that is giving back to the community. They want to be a part of this social change. Lastly, start with an initial ask for one time, where you bring them in for one of your campaigns. So that might be two or three times a year.

Favourite Quotes from Today’s Episode

Post your favorite quote on social media to share with us!

“So working with an influencer should feel for the influencer fun and easy. It's not fun and it's not easy, then this is a business opportunity and we need to pay them for their time, right. This should feel like an add value for them, right. Because they're partnering with you. A lot of these people, especially on Instagram, like they want to be part of change. Like they want to be. Of making their world or their community or their neighbourhood, a better place. They actually do.”

“We didn't really talk about like the power of the influencer who has 900 followers or 2000 followers, because that person is so powerful. Arguably sometimes more powerful than the person who has 5 million followers because that person usually has eight engaged community that has a higher engagement level and is also very specific to what it is they talk about.”

Resources from this Episode

Splendid Consulting

Splendid Consulting Instagram

The Good Partnership


Cindy W.: Have you ever been having a conversation with people who are trying to generate ideas on ways to grow the impact of your organization, and all of a sudden celebrity names start being thrown around. We need so-and-so or I've literally had multiple organizations sit in front of me and say, we just need a strategy to get in front of Drake, and that will solve all of our fundraising and branding challenges like automatically the sky will open and rain money. Now that's generally not how it works, but at the same time, we're seeing a lot more, I would say niche or micro-influencers having a really powerful impact in the for-profit world, but also for nonprofits.

And so if your organization has been curious or thinking about this, and even if you haven't, I actually really encourage you to, because this is an opportunity to grow your reach, even drive donations or sell tickets to things in a way that's really aligned with your audience and finding influencers who have an ideal audience for you.

And so I've invited Christina Edwards onto the podcast because this is what she teaches her company, Splendid does exactly that. So I am Cindy Wagman, your host of The Small Nonprofit podcast, and we bring you practical down-to-earth advice and how to get more done when you are small non-profits because you are going to change the world and we're here to help.

So Christina is, as I said, her company Splendid helps small nonprofits and really all size nonprofits increased their supporters, engagement, and revenue. She is, she used to run a PR agency. And so she really knows this space. And this conversation is super tactical. We are basically going to give you a roadmap on how to do this. All right, so buckle up. It's so much fun and impactful. It is a pleasure to welcome Christina to the podcast. Christina, welcome to the podcast.

Christina E.: Thank you so much for having me. I am thrilled to be here today.

Cindy W.: I'm so delighted to have this conversation because it's something we've never talked about on the podcast before, which is influencers and I feel like a lot of people know what that is, but let's start at the very beginning. What is an influencer in today's day and age?

Christina E.: Yeah. I feel like that's a word that maybe gets thrown around and people might have an idea approximately of what an influencer is. And other people might have heard social media influencers and thought social media, celebrity, and then maybe our brand goes to Kim Kardashians.

And we think of that, we think of somebody who has 50 million followers and that's an influencer and yes, that is technically an influencer. But for today's kind of purposes and what I'm talking about and what I'm so passionate about teaching my clients and students about is really the power and benefit of influencer marketing and working with influencers as partners. when they are thought leaders and an influencer could be a thought leader that you follow on Instagram that is really into home decor. Okay. It could be somebody who's got a really great design eye. It could be a home chef who you're like, I am making that recipe tonight. It's amazing. So they're in buckets of different niches.

We even see doggie accounts that are influencers. Here, there in Atlanta, there's like a popular dog account that goes all around town and the little pups posted all at different places like that, doggies and influencers. So it can range, the gamut from celebrities that, actors and thought leaders and lifestyle bloggers, mommy, bloggers all over the place. Yeah.

Cindy W.: Amazing. Before we talk about how to bring this into the nonprofit space. Let's talk a little bit more about how those influencers engage with brands. Because I think we need to start with understanding that model to understand how we can leverage that. And I've heard, influencers, micro-influencers, but they monetize that stuff like this.

Christina E.: This is a business. Absolutely. To give you a little kind of context. I used to run a social media and PR agency. And so for our clients, so who were restaurants and retailers and things like that, we would work with influencers and we would negotiate contracts with influencers and send the influencer product, or invite the influencer to come to a restaurant and then post about it.

And so I would say maybe five years ago, it used to be a lot in kind meaning a trade, right? I'll send you some products and if you like them, you can post about it. But really like the kind of landscape that has grown and changed, this is a full-time business for these influencers. So instead of just sending them a couple of throw pillows or a restaurant gift card, these are paid-to-play, this is not really different from running a digital ad on Facebook or a website that is a local publication, it's very similar.

This influencer has an engaged group, an engaged audience. And if you want them to talk about your product, then you're likely going to say, I will pay you X for X amount of posts and maybe this amount of Instagram stories, or maybe you're going to blog about it. And so you can work out the contract that way. So that's like the nuts and bolts of how it typically works. You might see the hashtag like hashtag sponsored or hashtag ads with influencers that you follow that is, part of the legal ease that you need to include when money is exchanged.

Typically the way that I teach it, and the way that I want nonprofits to partner with influencers is actually more of a brand ambassador, right? So this isn't typically a paid sponsorship, although that is something you absolutely could work towards for more of a wider footprint. But what I'm looking for is let's look at that, really powerful, and engaged influencer who has a really great lifestyle brand who talks a lot about mommy blogging. And so she's got her young kids and she's talking a lot about that, and she's got a core group of moms that are local. She could easily partner with a local diaper bank to have a really symbiotic relationship and become a brand ambassador for them. And that works really well because likely she, that's a heart-centered cause that matters to her.

Cindy W.: Yeah, so cool. I think this is such a fascinating place. I want to dive into what that looks like, but yeah. The other thing I want to just draw attention to is what I've noticed in influencer marketing recently, especially in Tiktok where I'm not going to admit how much time I spend wasting there, but I've noticed these influencer campaigns go really broad. Like I will see a lot of influencers all advertising the same product at the same time. So that I think is just from a strategy perspective. Super interesting, because it's like, there's this weird FOMO of that happens where everyone's talking about this. It must be amazing.

Christina E.: We see that for sure. Imagine a new restaurant opening in your town, so what's a really smart PR move would be to go the traditional route. You invite the journalist, you invite the critics, all that makes sense. But you start working with, a team of influencers, and all of a sudden, yes. It's like, whac-a-mole like, they're all popping up talking about this hot new restaurant before, it's you're like, why haven't I been to this restaurant? I want to go to the stress zone. I'm seeing these drool-worthy pictures of the food I'm in. I want to go. And that is a hundred percent really effective strategy. When you can plan for it in advance, right? So it's not arbitrary in that sense.

And this would translate to a non-profit having an annual event that annual event is happening, in October, so let's make sure that we have any team of influencers who are talking about it, leading up to that annual event. And then you can help mimic that FOMO factor. I love it.

Cindy W.: It's super manipulative but in a good way. Just the psychology behind that. I think it's so fascinating. And I literally brought up, bought a product yesterday after, seeing so many tests.

Christina E.: So here's the thing you're getting that third-party validation. I talked a little bit about an ad. So when you run an ad, you don't get that, right. But when another person that you follow, that home decorator, that skincare guru, whoever it is tells you about this product they love like I'm listening, I'm engaged. Why do you love it? You're getting that third-party validation. That proves that it works and yeah like you're so much more likely to buy. Yeah, it's crazy. It happens to me all the time.

Cindy W.: And it's an ad or sponsored because it says that, right? That again, you mentioned the legal ease. That is a requirement when they're being paid to post.

Christina E.: I'm sitting on a cushion right now. That was an ad. Like it was an Instagram ad and I was like, I need this cushion for my desk chair.It's amazing. So yeah

Cindy W. : there you go. Yeah. I have a back support thing that I saw on shark tank and it works just as an FYI. So I want to talk about the things. The goals we might have, if we look at these brand ambassadors, influencers, micro influencers as potential brand ambassadors, what kinds of opportunities or what are we asking them to do? If they're posting on social, is there, are they promoting something? Is there a call to action? Is it just brand building? What does that look like?

Christina E. : So you get to decide. But I like it to be campaign specific, so it can be specific, timely, measurable, and have a specific call to action. I also feel like that's nice for the influencer because it's, it designates to them like the container and don't forget, they're used to working in a campaign. So they're used to working with a partner that says, X amount of posts starting X day, that looks this way. So I like it's campaign specific. So we can use, a spring fundraiser as an example, you have this spring fundraiser coming up, so I've coined it inside my program as a street team.

So you're calling in your street teams as your digital street team to help get the word out, like whatever the thing is. So it could be ticket sales to an event that you're hosting. It could be an online fundraiser, it could be signing up for a 5k, like your call to action. Of course, it's going to vary. Going to be really clear with your partners, your ambassadors on what that is, the big distinction here, like the biggest distinction is, and you might already be like yeah, I do that. I have a version of that. It's my board members. My junior committee. No, this is not committee work. So working with an influencer should feel for the influencer fun and easy. It's not fun and it's not easy, then this is a business opportunity and we need to pay them for their time, this should feel like an added value for them because they're partnering with you. A lot of these people, especially on Instagram, like they want to be part of the change. Like they want to be part of making their world or their community or their neighborhood, a better place. They actually do. Even if their audience is, they're talking about like the best, I dunno, eyebrow gel, right? Like they, they still have a meaningful purpose. So many of them, and no one's asked them to get involved. So the trick here is we want to make it easy and we want to make it fun.

The way that we do that is like we strip away the committee work from it, or like the board member work from it. And we give them done for you assets, we give them done for you. Copy. We give them done for you graphic. So using the spring fundraiser, innocent example, don't make them go find the graphic. Don't make them go, come up with the copy. Maybe they're new to your organization. They dig your cause. It sounds really cool, but they don't necessarily know your voice yet, right? So you want to give them what I call a little toolkit, a digital toolkit of everything they might need. You don't want to overwhelm them again, easy and fun is the, is the factor here that you want to make sure that it goes back to so that it feels they're part of something and that they're not launching something on their own.

Cindy W. : Yeah. I want to add to that aligned, right? And you talked about this. Yes. But to be explicit, how does this resonate with them personally and also with their audience? It has to fit with that.

Christina E. : So I gave you a really what I call like a literal. It's a, to B, because I said, mom, she's a young mom with, she's got young kids, the diaper bank that is near and dear to her cause, but I also want to offer, there's probably people who are like my cause isn't that a to b right? Like, where am I going to find the people that care about, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And they are out there. Like they are all out there. Whether you run a donkey rescue, whether you are, helping people who are experiencing homelessness, like whatever your niche is, they are there.

And I find that just working through a process where you're reaching out to your friends, or friends, growing your community, asking the people who they follow online, they're out there. I mentioned like the foodies and the chefs and things like that. That's a huge demographic. And think about all the organizations. That are out there that help food insecure households, like that is a natural you might not see the fit. And then you're like, oh my gosh, that's right there. So you want to make sure the cause is aligned. Otherwise it's going to land on the pitch. It's you're asking somebody out and they're like, I'm married I don't know what you're talking about.

Cindy W. : So then. Maybe we've identified someone that we think there's indication that they would be well aligned and that this would be something that resonated with them personally, and with their audience. How do we connect with them? Because. And yeah, let's start with that. How do you connect with them?

Christina E.: You meet them where they are. So let's say this person's on Instagram. Don't send them an email. Now, every once in a while, you're going to find an influencer that says, don't DM me. I want you to email them email me. They'll put that in their bio, but nine times out of 10, I want you to meet them where they are. So if they're on Tiktok, look at their profile see what they say, if they're on Facebook, messenger them on Facebook. So meet them where they are. But really I would, again, I'm, we're going to use a dating analogy. Like you want to warm up to them before you ask them out. So have you been interacting with any other posts?

Have you commented on anything ever before, or are you don't want to just DM them and say, will you do this? This should be a partnership that feels well aligned and feels good and fun and easy for both people. And you start by warming up before you make the ask Hey, what do you think about this?

What if they have an agency? I would go through the agency. I've done that before. Yeah, so they might say talk to my publicist. They might say, talk to my manager, talk to whoever, and then I would do that. I absolutely would. And I would start by saying to that person that you, they refer you to of hi, I've been DM-ing with, Julie and I really love what she's doing. And here's why I think this would be an amazing partnership. I see that. Hasn't really, talks about any non-profits in XYZ area. We've got this going on and I just feel like this is such a fit for our audience and tell them why, tell them the benefit and go for it. I've done that actually before where we had to work with a publicist and the publicist actually responded and was like, actually four other restaurants that might be interested in this, is that okay? I'm like, yes. Yes. And that's, you actually bring up a really great point, which is. If this is something you want to dedicate time to, develop our relationships with those influencer agencies, managers, publicists a lot in my world. A lot of them work with PR teams. So that would be a great place to, take a PR publicist to lunch and say, this is what's happening because those are usually very local-focused and that would be a good place to get your foot in the door.

Cindy W.: Awesome. So we know what the ask is. I think the biggest sort of like elephant in the room is they're used to getting paid for this. How do we frame this? As we are asking for this brand ambassadorship, it's not paid how, yeah. How do we walk through that?

Christina E.: I think we're walking through it because we're giving, we're stripping away a lot of the stuff, but the influencers used to be used to being paid for. So in the sense, influencer typically has to create a lot of the content. So if I sell, if I send an influencer, a bunch of throw pillows they're supposed to go have a photoshoot and style it and all that. So in this sense, again, it's not a heavy lift for them because I have a lot of done for your assets. That's the first thing. The second thing is that we're really highlighting the benefit to them. They want to be part of something that is giving back to the community. They want to be a part of this social change and I've identified that for them.

So the other thing too is, we've, talked about it, not seeming like committee work or board work like this ask, I would start with an initial ask for one time, ideally this influencer somebody you work with again and again, but let's say you do have somebody who's yes, I love to this to be like something I do with you each year.

You do not want to access your street team, access your ambassadors on a monthly basis. This should feel like something you like to bring them in on for the ones that make sense. So that might be two or three times a year inside my course, I told him, I told my students that one of them was like, wow, I thought that we were supposed to like work with them all the time. And I'm like, then it would be a job for them, so that is, that's part of the key here is that this is something a few times a year and you're like, hey champions, I need you, and like you're calling in a dream team.

Cindy W.: Amazing. And I like that cause it's a relationship, but it's not onerous one for them. Ideally it's not that onerous for the organization either. So that's

Christina E.: Yeah how many times have you gotten like a product or again, had an experience and you've just naturally posted about it on social. And then a friend of yours has been like, wait, what is that? Tell me more. Like it should feel like that, where it's it took them two seconds. Your community was like, hang on. I want to know more about that thing too. And that ripple effect happens. That's what it should feel like.

Cindy W.: Awesome. So one of the things with digital marketing generally is our ability to measure and track and see the impact. I'd love for you to talk a little bit about what we should be setting up if anything, to be able to measure the impact of these types of campaigns for organizations.

Christina E. : Yes. Lots of ways we could go here. I going to use an example. So if you had a specific link to the event, you wanted to give the influencer to use, you could track it that way. If it was like a specific promo code, both of those would be really easy lifts of a trackable link. They certainly can track things like story views, video views, shares. They can give you those metrics, but I will say that, we're coming off the heels of giving Tuesday. A lot of my students have been talking about it this way. And they've said no specifically for giving Tuesday, although fill in your campaign, your online fundraising campaign here, they've said, all right, last year we raised $2,000.

This year was the first year we started working with ambassadors and influencers. We five X star goal. That's how you're going to measure it, where you're like, okay, last year, we were talking to the same audience again and again, and they showed up and we loved them, and that's awesome.

This year we used the ripple effect and we five X it. I have another client who has also had similar things where year after year, they're like, okay, we just keep adding to our influencer bucket. We keep adding to our ambassador bucket. So it's, maybe your pilot round is five influencers or five partners. And beyond that, you just grow and grow. And maybe you can use half of them for the spring and half of them for the fall or whatever feels good. Or maybe you send out an email to all of them and half of the post. I want you to just keep compounding it, right? Yeah.

Cindy W.: Yeah. So we talked about it feeling light and easy and fun for these influencers or ambassadors and that we don't go to them every month for an ask. But you know, you mentioned building up a little bit of a relationship or engagement before we ask them for the first time, how do we maintain those relationships in a way that honestly entices them or incentivizes them to keep participating?

Christina E.: I think they need to be part of your world. They need to be welcomed in the way that they would be if they were a donor right. So I feel like they need to be invited to that VIP cocktail hour that maybe you're going to have when you have in-person events. Again, they need to be invited to hang with you in person and online. And so the same way that we were digitally warming them up, maybe you were commenting on some of their posts in a true, authentic way don't stop doing that. Don't stop because they said, yes, you're like, all right, I'm done with it. Like again, the dating it's I courted you. We're done now. And, settle in that way. You want to keep it up and keeping it up doesn't have to be like this heavy lift. It could be an email here or there. It could be a short video where you're like, thanks so much. It could just be sharing when you see that they're promoting something and it makes sense for you, share their posts, like that kind of relationship-building is worth the time.

Cindy W.: Amazing. Is there anything you want to add that we haven't talked about?

Christina E.: I feel the only thing that I'm like, okay, we blew right past it. You asked about it, in the beginning, as micro. We didn't really talk about like the power of the influencer who has 900 followers or 2000 followers, because that person is so powerful. Arguably sometimes more powerful than the person who has 5 million followers because that person usually has eight engaged community that has a higher engagement level and is also very specific to what it is they talk about.

So again, that could be like location, specific cause specific. It could be anything. And so think about it, it's like that local chef or that local foodie or somebody like that who has 900 followers versus the one that has 5 million, those 5 million followers could be all over the world. And if your cause is specific to, your city, do not discount that micro-influencer, you could have a street team with 10 micro-influencers and have a huge online campaign. I would mix it up and I would certainly not discount those relationships based on the number.

Cindy W.: Love it. Christina, this is so interesting.

Christina E. : I could talk about it all day long.

Cindy W. : I know before we wrap up, can you give us an example of a smaller organization that ran a campaign? You've mentioned some of your student. You have a program where you teach this, but give us like a case study.

Christina E.: Yeah. So inside my course it's called Amplify Social Impact. It really, I would say a lot of people dive into module three so they can learn this concept, so I teach this concept and have a lot of the like done for your pieces. Cause part of it is waiting, who do I pitch? And then it's how do I pitch? And then it's okay, got them. But now what? And then it's okay, when do we want to enact the dream team? And so I mentioned this one case study earlier, but I have a student Rebecca who joined maybe four or five months ago, something like that. And she knew that was a priority. So she went straight to module three and went straight for that and she actually had a really great kind of recap. She did her own kind of case study recap after her campaign. And she said she listed it out. She said I asked, 10 influencers, three said, yes.

She said I asked 10 businesses. Five said yes. So she actually parsed hers up by local businesses too. And in the end, she had five extra results. And so it's like it's bananas. And the other thing that she did really effectively. She simplest sim I'm not gonna be able to say it systematized it. And she has templates now. So she did something that now she doesn't have to reinvent the wheel. She can change out some creativity, she can change out some colors for the next one, but it's all on Canva, which I'm super passionate about. And she can just re you know, like refresh the campaign next year, because she did such a heavy lift.

The other piece that she did really is because she basically had, it was her first street team. It was really fun to watch her thank her street team and cheer on her street team, digitally through the campaign and what that looks like was like lifting them up and giving them shout-outs in stories and posting pictures of them and tagging them in their handles. And you're just again, like closing that loop. So it doesn't feel like. Julie said she would be a street teamer and did, and Julia's sweating and it feels like a lot of work instead. Julie's just feeling hyped up and excited to help you exceed and blow past your goal. So that's that loop of what that feels like. And then again, when the fundraiser is over, it's that was it. That was super fun. You're on a break until, next time. And you're just keeping that relationship open and warm.

Cindy W.: Amazing.

Christina E.:Yeah.

Cindy W. : Christina, where can our audience connect with you and learn more about what you're doing?

Christina E. : Yes. So come hang with me on Instagram at Splendid Consulting, and then the best place to go is to watch my free masterclass. You can watch it instantly. And I talk a lot about this concept. They show a lot of examples. If you go to Splendid forward slash masterclass, you'll see it right there.

Cindy W.: Amazing. Thanks for joining us today.

Christina E.: Thank you for having me. This was super fun.

Cindy W.: And of course, to our listeners, thank you so much for tuning in. I hope you try. Some of this is a very low barrier to participate.

Christina E.: Start with one.

Cindy W.: Yeah, it's super it really does leverage that social proof that we know really intrigues people and get some to take action. So go for it. You got this and we'll see you next week.

Folks, that's it for today's episode of The Small Nonprofit, I'm your host, Cindy Wagman. And this show is brought to you by The Good Partnership. As a reminder, if you want more resources around raising more money for your small nonprofit. Visit The Good and download our free fundraising strategy guide. I'll see you next week.