How to Build an Influencer Strategy for Social Enterprises

While it may not be immediately apparent, social enterprises may benefit the most from influencer marketing. After all, over 50% of Gen Z buyers acknowledge that social consciousness affects their purchasing decisions. This means that social enterprises have an added advantage over companies without social good initiatives.

In addition, a joint study between the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise and the National University of Singapore suggests that 64% of survey respondents learn about social enterprises through the Internet, with influencers and brand advocates playing an important role in communicating brand awareness. 

With these benefits in mind, it’s important that social enterprises leverage influencers to amplify their brand name and campaigns. However, not all businesses can afford to spend thousands on celebrity endorsements. Even though social enterprises have to be more frugal than their counterparts, they can still use influencer marketing to their benefit.

Here’s how the best brands do it:

Traditional influencer marketing done right: World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)

WWF is a prime example of how social enterprises can use influencers in their marketing strategy. WWF consistently collaborates with influencers for major campaigns. This includes selecting local celebrities as ambassadors for their annual Earth Hour event. 

WWF Influencer strategy

WWF selects Singaporean influencers as Earth Hour ambassadors

WWF works with Nathan Hartono, Aarika Lee and Kevin Lester for its beach cleanup programme

While these celebrities certainly have star power, they are also big supporters of eco-initiatives. Paul Foster, for example, champions a plastic cleanup initiative, while Liv Lo is an avid supporter of green, organic products

The success of WWF’s first zero-waste Earth Hour in 2019, which brought 40,000 people together in a joint effort towards sustainability, demonstrates the power of engaging the right influencers who advocate for similar agendas.

The power of a community: TOMS

Marketers and laymen alike will no doubt be familiar with shoe brand TOMS, which donates a pair of shoes to underprivileged children for each pair purchased. TOMS is also a star when it comes to community engagement. 

Their annual ‘One Day Without Shoes’ campaign, for example, encourages social media users to post a photograph of their bare feet with the hashtag #WithoutShoes. TOMS then donates a pair of shoes for every post. In 2016, this campaign garnered 3.5 million engagements. The result? 27,435 pairs of donated shoes. 

TOMS influencer strategy

TOMS’ One Day Without Shoes campaign in 2016

More recently, TOMS tackled the issue of gun violence by initiating a 5 million dollar donation to organisations in the United States committed to the cause. TOMS collected digital postcards from its customers and fans, delivering over 700,000 signed postcards to congressional representatives in Washington, D.C. after a cross-country tour. 

TOMS influencer strategy

TOMS delivers postcards to Congress in a bid to end gun violence in America

Why do TOMS and WWF’s campaigns work?

Social enterprises can use influencer marketing as a tool to generate anticipation for future campaigns. TOMS and WWF showcase a keen understanding of the types of influencers that work for them.

TOMS consistently uses its community of consumers and employees as brand advocates. By featuring user-generated content (UGC) and tagging their fans, TOMS keeps their influencers engaged and involved. In addition, the low barriers to entry for their campaigns encourage users to submit their entries. This ensures that consumers recognise their importance and are more willing to participate.

As TOMS’ vision espouses the power of the consumer, engaging them would fall more in line with their brand message than employing a big-name celebrity.

While WWF also relies on UGC for social media contests, its main influencer strategy centres around relevant local celebrities that are generally outspoken about environmental and social issues on their personal social media pages. These ambassadors resonate with their audience as they embody the organisation’s environmental purpose.

Social enterprises must work to find the right influencers so as not to dilute their brand message. To find the influencers whose content best resonates with you and your and target audience, use Meltwater’s Influencer Discovery tool. Find influencers based on your audience’s demographic as well as your target market, industry, or topic. These influencers will have fans who are familiar with you and have a vested interest in your cause. This means that the content that they create will be better able to target your audience.

Collaboration works wonders:

A common cause that transcends physical boundaries: OzHarvest

Social enterprises benefit from a unique global network of organisations that may advocate for similar causes. This also means that the causes they champion transcend physical boundaries.

For example, the bushfires that have wracked Australia gained worldwide attention, sparking global fundraisers for affected areas and campaigns promoting handmade goods from bush communities. 

Now Serving influencer strategy

Now Serving, a cookbook store in Los Angeles, announces a bake sale to raise funds for organisations like OzHarvest

OzHarvest, a food rescue charity based in Australia, works with brands and influencers worldwide. By collaborating with Los Angeles-based cookbook store Now Serving, for example, OzHarvest was able to raise additional funds in the wake of the crisis. 

Individual food influencers have also been eager to show their support for smaller campaigns that were also contributing to relief efforts. By tagging OzHarvest in their posts, these influencers raised greater awareness for their cause.

OzHarvest Influencer strategy

OzHarvest is tagged in a #cookforthebush Instagram post

Smaller brands that work together: Cat & Kai Handmade Jewellery, Save Philippine Seas, Seastainable Co.

Smaller startups may also benefit from partnerships with other brands. Cat & Kai Handmade Jewellery, a jewellery brand which contributes to the conservation of Danjugan Island in the Philippines, collaborates with the founder of Save Philippine Seas, Anna Opasa. Both brands have been featured by Singapore-based Seastainable Co., which sells reusable straws, cups, and bowls. 

Save Philippines Seas

Save Philippine Seas founder Anna Opasa supports Cat & Kai Handmade Jewellery

Seastainable Co.

Seastainable Co. supports both Save Philippine Seas and Cat & Kai Handmade Jewellery

Why do brand collaborations work?

Social enterprises that support the same cause are unique in that they are natural partners rather than competitors. By helping each other, social entrepreneurs use one another as a source of influence.

The collaboration between Cat & Kai Handmade Jewellery, Seastainable Co. and Save Philippine Seas helps them by increasing their collective impact. Through their partnerships, these companies empower each other to increase their revenue and client base.

For example, by hosting its products on Seastainable Co.’s website, Cat & Kai reaches consumers in Singapore and, by extension, spreads its message there. Seastainable’s grants help organisations such as Save Philippine Seas to continue to run educational programmes, while the cause cements Seastainable’s commitment to marine conservation.

Looking inwards: Seastainable Co., L’Effervescence

Social enterprises don’t need to look too far to find influencers — sometimes, employees can be their best bet. After all, your boss or fellow coworkers know your product best and may be more than willing to market it.

Seastainable Co., for example, prominently features its founder, Samantha Thian. Thian represents her brand at events such as the Women in Sustainability discussion and the Income Eco Run.

Samantha Thian speaks at the Women in Sustainability discussion organised by her company

Thian is also the face of her brand in a giveaway organised by the Income Eco Run

The appearance of a brand’s founder humanises the brand and also spreads a positive message about the organisation’s vision and products.

This is especially useful for organisations such as restaurants, where the head chef or founder often serves as a figurehead. One example is L’Effervescence, the brainchild of chef Shinobu Namae, whose aim is to create dishes that showcase Japanese produce while respecting the environment. 

The establishment won the Sustainable Restaurant Award in 2018 due to its composting and zero-waste initiatives. Namae is vocal in his support for closed-loop consumption (in which the restaurant reuses and recycles food such as vegetable peels that are typically thrown away) and advocates for L’Effervescence on his personal Instagram page. 

Chef Shinobu Namae introduces the local produce used in one of his restaurant’s dishes

The restaurant’s Instagram page also actively features Namae’s staff, highlighting the establishment’s culture and showcasing their dedication to the support of ethical produce.

The staff of L’Effervescence on a trip to learn more about local sake production

Why is it important that social enterprises know their voice?

Having a social agenda doesn’t mean that businesses are disadvantaged. If anything, brands that work to add value to their community create a better impression among their audiences and generate greater purchase or re-purchase intent

A survey by BrandFog suggests that consumers increasingly value the voice of a company’s leader and are more willing to purchase an item from a brand whose stance on key social issues mirrors their own. In addition, 82% of employees feel the need to understand their CEO’s position on these issues.

Social enterprises that fully understand this know that their own voice can be an extremely powerful tool. Figureheads like Samantha Thian and Shinobu Namae embrace their brand and incorporate strong personal beliefs into their company’s philosophy. However, projecting the right message is impossible without a keen understanding of their audience and client base.

Meltwater’s Audience Insight reports allow you to understand the communities that drive conversations on your social media channels. Our tool allows you to discover their consumption habits, analyse shifts in their demographic, and identify key influencers within these groups. You can then use these insights to determine how best to address your audience.

What’s next?

Now that we’ve shown you the top influencer marketing campaigns by social enterprises, getting started is easy — but before you dive into your next campaign, make sure that you’re familiar with our tips for a kickass influencer marketing strategy!