When you hear ‘influencer’ what springs to mind? A millennial posting selfies, being paid to promote products for the highest bidder? You wouldn’t be alone. Last month 44% of the UK public went as far as to say they felt influencer marketing was "damaging" to society.
It’s true that their impact is powerful and far-reaching. Over 31% of consumers across the US and Europe said they have purchased a product or service based on a social influencer post. It’s also true that its becoming a lucrative career. Brands understand the value of these captive audiences whose buying habits hinge on an influencer’s trusted recommendations. Audiences hard-earned by years of careful content cultivation and community management.
This has sparked some backlash. The rules around disclosing whether an influencer has been paid to post about a product vary around the world. Some users will also advertise a product that feels misaligned to their usual content. Both can lead to criticism and accusations of insincerity. But it would be short-sighted to dismiss the power of influencers for good. They have huge potential to impact more than just a lipstick purchase. Charities, like brands, are becoming more and more interested in including influencers in their campaigns and influencers are responding enthusiastically and selflessly.
For International Women’s Day this year, Always enlisted celebrities and influencers to support their #EndPeriodPoverty Instagram campaign. For every throwback school picture shared, Always pledged to donate a pad to a school. It followed research revealing that over 137,000 schoolgirls in the UK regularly miss school because they cannot afford sanitary protection.
Last year, Boxed Water planted more than 600,000 trees after their influencer marketing campaign achieved huge levels of engagement. In partnership with the National Forest Foundation, the water brand promised to plant two new trees for every Instagram photo posted with the hashtag #ReTree.
As well as increasing visibility, support from influencers can help charitable campaigns reach a targeted audience and feel more authentic. While celebrities used to be the go-to charitable mascot, there’s a greater opportunity for organisations to connect with influencers with an affinity and real experiences connected to the cause. This storytelling gives charities a human face and sparks much-needed emotional engagement. They may have less reach, but engagement will be more meaningful.
Then there’s the chance of creating social media movements. Wellness was a movement propelled in part by the influencer community. Now, dedicated campaigners are using their content to put environmental issues on the agenda. While your recycling efforts at home may feel unremarkable, when you can identify with a larger community, it feels more powerful and motivating.
It’s encouraging to see influencers responding to this responsibly. Statistics tell us Millennials are more charitable than previous generations, despite earning less money. Research in the USA by fundraising firm Blackbaud, found that while 72% of Baby Boomers give to charity and 59% of Generation X, 84% of Millennials give to charitable organisations.
To motivate this generation of digital natives - who seek inspiration, information and purchase online - to continue giving, charities must continue to keep influencers in their strategy. It gives them a credible, emotional connection to users and can lead to inspiring results.