Influence Marketing and Fundraising: Current Thinking


I just finished reading a book called Influence Marketing, authored by Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella. The book primarily is a marketing book. It talks about how the long-standing relationship between brands and their “audience” has been altered by the strange new world of social media. It talks about how new platforms have evolved to try to mine out “influeners” in the online space. In essence, Influence Marketing strives to turn “influence marketing” upside down. The book, as you might expect, primarily focuses on Business-to Consumer (B2C) companies. However, I think there are a lot of important lessons that NPOs can garner from the book as well. This month I’m going to dedicate my posts here to talking about lessons you can learn from the book Influence Marketing.

Current Thinking

To start, let’s review a little bit about how most people think about social media fundraising today. Almost since the time social media became a popular tool for promoting businesses and causes, the thinking has been that if you can get a “twelebrity” to support you, you will have it made. Many organizations try to get well-known people from the online world to share their posts. In fact, when you first sign up for Twitter, you are invited to connect with some of the top Twitter uses out there.

Usually, companies and causes will look for people who simply seem to have a lot of followers, or if the person is on Facebook, the number of “friends” or “fans” will be evaluated. By getting a person with a huge following to share your cause, share your blog post, or share your information, so the logic goes, your message will become accessible to many thousands of people you likely could not have reached on your own. Of those people, the hope is that many will be interested enough in your cause to become a supporter.

This idea of getting influential people to support your cause has become a bit more complicated in recent years. Platforms like Klout, Kred, and PeerIndex (among many others that Danny and Sam talk about) have been created to help you find not just people with big followings, but also people who may have some ties to your area of interest. Now, so the story goes, you can find out who has big followings, and who also uses that big following to talk about issues tied to your organization.

Companies and causes try to reach these “influencers” in many different ways. Some try the subtle approach of trying to tweet with the person or trying to “friend” them on Facebook. Other approaches can be far less subtle. I have heard stories of people emailing influential online users essentially begging them to support a cause. Others may send direct messages to the “influencer” every time a blog post goes live.

The Other Shoe Drops

If you have tried this approach to online fundraising, you probably have noticed that in terms of raising actual money, the results are usually not good. You might have wondered if your strategy or approach was off or if perhaps your cause simply is not the kind that attracts a lot of passionate supporters.

Let’s say that none of the reasons are the real explanation behind your lack of fundraising success, however. Instead, let’s travel the path that the book Influence Marketing paves for us, and let’s assume the real problem is the entire “influence marketing” approach that social media practitioners have been preaching. That’s a more comforting thought, is it not?

Next week we’ll talk about why a lot of the current thinking regarding social media marketing (and hence social good promotion/fundraising) does not work. Stay tuned!