celebrity influence

Star Power: Leveraging Celebrity Influence in Nonprofit Media Marketing

Often, celebrities look to boost their image by supporting a nonprofit organization on social media platforms. It seems like a win-win, and usually, it is: the celebrity gains brownie points for devoting time to a worthy cause, and the nonprofit benefits from the celebrity’s internet presence to gain some exposure. However, many nonprofits are not using the power of fame to its fullest potential. Here are some tips for how to best leverage celebrity supporters on social media.

DO: Seek out celebrities who are genuinely interested in your cause. In a recent whitepaper, Geoff Livingston and Henry Z. Tunbar explored the effectiveness of celebrity on a variety of nonprofits. They concluded that a personal story and an authentic outreach were key to the success of a celebrity endorsement. When fans felt that a celebrity was simply “going through the motions,” they were less interested in their nonprofit promotion. By choosing celebrities who are genuinely engaged with a cause, you can guarantee better fan engagement as well. Our client Water4, which is endorsed by popular singer Sandi Patty, created a video about Patty’s journey to Africa to support Water4’s mission. The video, below, is a great example of genuine celebrity engagement.

DON’T: Limit yourself to “conventional” celebrities. Livingston and Tunbar also note that in social fundraising, “the best results do not come from the most well-known celebrities, and bloggers, but the most engaged ones.” In the internet age, celebrities don’t have to be on the front page of People to hold major star power. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, and other platforms all have users with millions of followers, and stories go viral every day. “Weblebrities” are also more likely to be more engaged with their audience, since they already interact with fans frequently in an online context. Although they may not be a household name, their influence is still far-reaching and effective.

DO: Use Celebrity-promoted contests and giveaways to help with fundraising.

If a celebrity has a number of devoted fans, it also means he or she likely has plenty of desirable merchandise. Concert tickets, signed t-shirts, and even simple acknowledgement from the celebrity are all valuable to fans of a popular celeb. Check out the website Twitchange for a number of great examples of celebrity auctions and contests for charity– if fans donate to a cause, they’re entered in the raffle. Even if you’re not as focused on fundraising, and you just want to drum up support, you can use a celebrity’s assets to your advantage. One great example is for the celebrity to pick a user to follow out of a group that has retweeted a certain link relating to your nonprofit– it’s free, and a super effective way to get the word out.

DON’T: Feel as though you need a celebrity supporter to be successful. Celebrity endorsement can be really effective, but it’s not the end-all-be-all of online marketing for nonprofits. Some organizations pay for their celebrity support, which can be an expensive endeavor and a huge risk. There are plenty of ways to increase support and donations without celebrities, and they’re not always as effective as you might think! An Acemetrix study in 2010 showed that in conventional TV ads, celebrity endorsement didn’t improve performance. Celebrities can definitely be a great way to give exposure to your organization, but it’s a decision that should be considered carefully.

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