Nonprofit News from 4imprint
Who is most influential when it comes to telling people what an organisation is all about?

As Danielle Tiedt, Chief Marketing Officer of YouTube, noted recently, 20 years ago it was marketers who were responsible for defining their brand. However, she doesn’t believe this is the case anymore, arguing: “At the most fundamental level, the people who use your product are the people defining your brand because they can talk about it [and] read about it.” And, YouTube know about this more than most, as it’s become a vital platform for brand advocacy.

Anyone can now create videos and share advice, recommendations and opinions on just about everything. And some of these people are generating sizeable followings, to the point where businesses and charities are starting to take notice. Since consumers are being guided more and more by the views of online commentators, YouTube vloggers in particular have set themselves up as highly influential and trusted figures.

A number of prominent high street brands and charities have sought to tap into this craze and get prominent vloggers on board. And what’s more, the public seem to trust these individuals as they don’t seem to have a vested interest in the subjects they talk about.

So could online influencers help to drum up interest in your cause?

Look for videos linked to your mission
A few YouTube searches may help you find vloggers who have created videos linked to your cause. This approach worked for The Alzheimer’s Society, who joined forces with Charlie McDonnell (Charlieissocoollike on YouTube) after he revealed that his grandfather had suffered from the condition. He posted a video blog about his late grandad and encouraged people to donate to the charity via his YouTube channel, which has more than 2 million subscribers.

The video was made for Project for Awesome (P4A), YouTube and Google’s annual fundraising initiative that encourages people to make vlogs to attract donations to good causes. P4A pledges to match the overall fundraising total raised across the whole campaign and split the figure between the 5 vlogs with the most views.

Since Charlie was personally invested in The Alzheimer’s Society cause, the tie-up looked genuine and well-intentioned, which is essential if you are trying to capitalise on the trust YouTube users have in certain vloggers.

Charlie’s vlog on behalf of the charity now has more than 660,000 views and counting, so it’s clear to see how a campaign along these lines can help an organisation get its message out there to people who possibly wouldn’t hear it otherwise.

Steer YouTube creators in your direction
Mental health charity Mind created a page inviting vloggers to share their experiences through what it termed Mental Health Selfies. On the page, it said the best advice often comes not from professionals, but from those who have been through the same problems. This opened the door for vloggers, from those with a minimal online reach to people with a considerable YouTube following, to speak about their everyday lives, coping methods and treatment types that they’ve found helpful.

These were uploaded to Mind’s YouTube channel and have racked up thousands of views, positive comments and shares on social media. These videos have proved to be more than a promotional tool for the charity. As the online comments show, they’ve also become an inspiring and helpful support resource for other people with mental health problem – and are therefore playing a positive role in dealing with this ongoing issue.

Build a relationship with key influencers
If you find vloggers you want to work with, try to forge a relationship with them before asking them to endorse your charity. Simple steps such as sharing relevant videos they’ve made on your social media pages and commenting on their content can lay firm foundations. You could send them any promotional literature you may have along with branded merchandise such as a pen, wristband or t-shirt to let them know more about your cause – and then make a formal approach to work together.

Don’t be too controlling
It might seem an unusual idea for a marketer to step back from a marketing campaign, but a strategy involving vloggers can often work best if you let them do what they do best without interference. By all means give them information, stats and anything else that might educate them about your cause, but online audiences will be able to tell if their favourite vlogger is simply reading words written by someone else. Letting them speak freely on a subject makes the videos more authentic, real and distinctive, and therefore their impact will be greater.

Such exposure can only be a good thing for a charity that wants to win hearts and minds and secure a steady stream of donations. Vloggers are seen as the epitome of authenticity and trustworthiness among a staggering number of people and therefore could appear a very credible endorsement for your charity.

Sources / Further Reading
The challenge of marketing YouTube Marketing Week
Young internet sensation backs Alzheimer’s Society The Alzheimer’s Society
The Alzheimer’s Society #P4A YouTube
Kirsty Marrins: How your charity can work with vloggers Third Sector
What’s a mental health selfie? Mind