Wondering how to drive huge ROI while making a meaningful difference on your next campaign? The key is coupling cause marketing with Influencer Marketing. Raising awareness of social causes through authentic influencers’ voices benefits all involved by building trust, increasing reach, driving calls to action, and strengthening reputation. So, how can you ensure your campaign will be a home run? By understanding what cause marketing is, the benefits you will experience, and most importantly, how to leverage specific activations to drive results.

What Is Cause Marketing?

Cause marketing, in general, is a partnership between a for-profit brand and a nonprofit organization. Together, they design campaigns that provide mutual benefit. For example, say your brand would like to improve its reputation, gain more trust with consumers, or build a relationship with a community. And say there’s a nonprofit serving a cause related to your brand’s vision or products that needs broader awareness of its mission. In this partnership, the brand uses its communication channels (mainly social media) and clout to share the nonprofit’s campaign to a broader audience or a different audience than it would normally reach.

The combination of cause marketing, which is sometimes called cause-related marketing, and Influencer Marketing means that both the brand and the nonprofit bring a third partner—or partners—into the mix.

Why Should Brands Partner With Influencers on Cause Marketing Campaigns?

Appealing to audiences through influencers’ more authentic, real-life voices gets campaigns more traction and offers wins to everyone involved. Before sharing step-by-step instructions on HOW to combine Influencer Marketing with cause marketing, let’s address the WHYs and the wins. Specifically, let’s look at the benefits brands could experience when coupling these two types of campaigns.

Increase Reach and Reputation

These four target audiences win big through the combined powerhouse of Influencer Marketing and cause marketing campaigns:

  1. The nonprofit. Often, charitable organizations don’t have a wide or a large enough reach to drive huge return on investment (ROI) on their own. Therefore, they benefit by partnering with brands and influencers who have higher followings. These partnerships drive key calls to action—awareness, subscriptions, and/or donations.
  2. The brand. A brand’s reach and reputation increase exponentially through highly influential creator partnerships, especially when the influencers are aligned with causes that the brand champions. Add that to campaigns including multiple posts, platforms, and activations, and brands could enjoy the perfect trifecta to score success.
  3. The influencers. When social media mavens partner with brands and the causes they love, they use their authentic voice for good. In this way, they enjoy an improved reputation for affiliating with charitable organizations. Furthermore, they see traction from mobilizing their followers to take action in line with causes that are meaningful to them.
  4. The target audience. Consumers buy from brands they trust. According to a Forbes article, “… 87 percent of consumers would buy a product based on a company’s advocacy on an issue they care about.” So, when nonprofits, brands, and influencers work together to spread the word about causes, their consumers or followers have more information to move them along in their buying journey. This results in the target market feeling more peace of mind.

Improve Trust

A 2019 Brand Trust Report by Edelman Holdings reported that 81 percent of respondents said they needed to be able to trust a brand to do what’s right if they’re going to purchase from them. More trust, especially the word-of-mouth trust that influencers provide, means more sales. You could say that coupling Influencer Marketing and cause marketing kills two birds with one stone. It increases trust by leaning on the relationships the influencers have with their followers and centering content around the ways you’re working to improve the world.

Clearly, partnering with nonprofits and influencers can drive results that reach far beyond ROI.

5 Ways to Couple Influencer Marketing and Cause Marketing for Huge ROI

1. Influencer-Hosted Cause-Driven House Parties

What They Are

Though they have gone online for the last couple of years due to social distancing, we anticipate influencer-hosted, cause-driven house parties will make a comeback. This in-person activation type includes influencers hosting live events in their homes. One of our favorite examples of this is an oldie but a goodie campaign (we’re talking from the early days of Influencer Marketing back in 2009) with OfficeMax (before they were Office Depot OfficeMax).

In order to raise awareness for out-of-pocket teacher spending and support local educators through its own Adopt a Classroom initiative, OfficeMax worked with 32 influencers. These “MaxMoms” ambassadors hosted in-person events in their communities where they encouraged their attendees to contribute cash and school supply donations. Each group nominated a local teacher in need and after the live event, presented the goods to him or her in line with OfficeMax’s “A Day Made Better” theme.

To recap the events and drive further awareness and donations, the ambassador influencers shared blog posts with giveaways. OfficeMax also sponsored eight “Max Moms” to join and represent their cause at a blogging conference with over 600 attendees.

How You Can Leverage Influencer-Hosted, Cause-Driven Live Events In Your Next Cause/Influencer Marketing Campaign

While in-person events have been around long before social media, many more options exist today than were available in 2009 to combine cause marketing with Influencer Marketing. First, there are more social media channels for event promotion. Second, there are more influencers. And, finally, there are more influencers that have huge followings. If you’re up for doing in-person events, follow these steps:

  1. Select a nonprofit that represents the cause you want to bring attention to
  2. Set goals.
  3. Vet the right group of influencers.
  4. Allow the influencers to plan the events (feel free to send them a lot of products if appropriate).
  5. Have the influencers host the events (encourage them to go all out and decorate, create goody bags, etc.).
  6. Provide message points to influencers in the contract that you have with them.
  7. Track the ROI after the campaign.

These kinds of events work best with influencers who have built their reputation around their blogs and have a large following on at least one social media channel. Additionally, it is critical to find partners who meet specific criteria. Namely, they can drive in-person event attendance. They are great event planners and hosts. As content creators, they can capture and share event promotion and happenings before, during, and after the festivities. And, they can entice or incentivize their guests to join in the sharing to increase awareness and results.

What Influencer-Hosted House Parties Can Help You Achieve

  • In-person events are an intimate and hands-on way to get your brand in front of audiences you might not otherwise reach.
  • If you’ve ever hosted a live event before, you know that they take many back-breaking hours to organize. It’s exponentially more so for fundraising professionals, who do so with less help and lower pay. Influencer hosts save your brand and the nonprofit time and energy while driving huge results.

How OfficeMax’s Influencer Marketing and Cause Marketing Combo Campaign Drove Success

Each live event raised a minimum of $1,000 in supplies and money, which the influencers awarded to 32 teachers. Additionally, OfficeMax awarded 1,000 teachers across the country with $1,000 each in supplies and cash. Evergreen blog posts and social media promotion further increased awareness and engagement.

2. Instagram Blitzes

What They Are

Instagram Blitzes are when Instagram posts and/or Stories go out all at once or staggered over several hours on one specific certain day and at or within a certain time. They differ from Instagram Campaigns that take place over as little as a few days or as long as a few years.

Instagram provides an excellent setting for content that relies on visual impact and emotion. For example, in an Influencer Marketing/cause marketing campaign we did for Safe to Sleep, six of our Instagram influencers talked about safe sleeping habits for infants on Instagram and Instagram Stories.

How You Can Leverage Instagram Blitzes In Your Next Cause/Influencer Marketing Campaign

Follow these steps for your next Instagram Blitz campaign:

  1. Select a nonprofit that represents a cause your brand champions.
  2. Determine your campaign’s objectives (desired results).
  3. Vet the right group of influencers.
  4. Designate a day and time at which the blitz should happen. For example, this cause could amplify its message by aligning with a holiday such as National Children’s Day (June 12). On that day, participating influencers would “blitz” Instagram with their campaign posts.
  5. Provide brand message points in your influencer contract.
  6. Perform quality assurance to ensure the influencers nailed your brand messaging.
  7. Track ROI after the blitz.

This is your opportunity to mine for emotions. As you put together the messaging points for participating influencers, help them feel the need behind the campaign and give them the tools to express that need. Motivate them to dig deep into their passion for your brand’s cause. And, encourage them to capture pictures that communicate key messaging and pluck at their followers’ heartstrings.

What Instagram Blitz Campaigns Can Help You Achieve

  • Engagement rates tend to be higher on Instagram, depending on the industry, niche, or nature of the post. Higher engagement means greater awareness. Isn’t awareness the first part of the buyer’s funnel? For those who are unsure what engagement rates are, here’s a helpful definition: ​​Engagement rates are metrics used to track how actively involved with your content the audience is and how effective brand campaigns are.
  • Posting striking and emotional images, emotion-driven content, the right hashtags, and clear call-to-actions gives your brand a great chance of driving results against your most important calls to action, including donations.

How Safe to Sleep’s Cause Marketing and Influencer Marketing Combo Campaign Drove Success

With 3,035,120 total impressions and a total reach of 478,900, the campaign exceeded the contracted reach by 188 percent.

3. Instagram Campaigns

What They Are

Instagram Blitzes and Instagram Campaigns differ only in the timing. “Blitzes” occur all at once on a certain day and at a certain time. Campaigns can happen over as little as a few days or as long as a few years.

Microsoft, for instance, conducted a multi-year campaign in partnership with National Geographic. To reduce the world’s plastic usage, National Geographic worked with some of their photographers who are Instagram influencers in their own right, including Cristina Mittermeier and Ami Vitale. These influencers and activists posted photos of different animals in their Instagram Stories, asking their followers to protect them by sustaining a healthy environment.

National Geographic also partnered with a few big consumer goods brands and put themselves in the role of influencer. They worked with Microsoft to build brand awareness and foster positive public perception around Microsoft’s Make What’s New campaign to encourage young girls to study STEM subjects. 

First, several adventure and activist influencers who were affiliated with National Geographic took 30 photos of different prominent female scientists or adventurers. Second, all of those photos were posted on National Geographic’s own Instagram channels, in addition to the influencers’. Third, each photo caption told the story of one of those female scientists or adventurers. Finally, each post tagged Microsoft and included #MakeWhatsNext.

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How You Can Leverage Instagram Campaigns Parties In Your Next Cause/Influencer Marketing Campaign

While your campaign doesn’t have to be as big or complex as Microsoft’s and National Geographics, it will still require a good amount of coordination and creativity. You’ll need to:

  1. Select a nonprofit that represents the cause you want to bring attention to.
  2. Set goals.
  3. Vet just the right group of influencers.
  4. Designate a time frame when the Instagram content should go live.
  5. Provide brand message points in your influencer contract.
  6. Perform a quality assurance check.
  7. Track ROI after the blitz.

If you align your campaign with a national or international holiday, you’ll not only be able to get more traction but also contribute to the conversation around the problem the holiday is trying to solve. Here are some options:

  • Feb. 2: World Wetlands Day
  • Feb. 4: World Cancer Day
  • Feb. 9: Safer Internet Day
  • Mar. 1: Zero Discrimination Day
  • Mar. 8, International Women’s Day
  • Mar. 22: World Water Day
  • Apr. 2: World Autism Day
  • Apr. 22: Earth Day
  • May 15: International Day of Families
  • Aug. 12: International Youth Day
  • Oct. 10: World Mental Health Day
  • Oct. 16: World Food Day
  • Oct 18: World Menopause Awareness Day
  • Nov. 19: International Men’s Day

What Instagram Campaigns Can Help You Achieve

  • Engagement rates tend to be higher on Instagram, depending on the industry, niche, or nature of the post. As I mentioned earlier, higher engagement means greater awareness.
  • Encouraging influencers to post striking images while using the appropriate hashtags and sharing the correct messages will drive donations for those in need.

How National Geographic and Microsoft’s Cause Marketing and Influencer Combo Campaign Drove Success

Because they aligned content across all five of NatGeo’s social channels and those of several influencers, and aligned with the social media conversation around International Women’s Day, Microsoft got their cause in front of ninety-one million of NatGeo’s followers. Millions engaged. 

This is interesting because, at first glance, you wouldn’t think National Geographic would be the best brand/inflluencer to promote STEM. After all, Microsoft is all about tech. And, National Geographic’s all about, well, geography. But, people use technology and the interaction of people with their environments is what defines geography. Focus on the people to find the common ground.

4. Twitter Parties

What They Are

Twitter Parties are real-time chats involving a sponsoring brand, nonprofit representatives, and interested Twitter participants. These online events are like virtual cocktail parties with hundreds or even thousands of people. They focus on a particular subject, use a hashtag to identify the sponsoring brand or cause, and pose open-ended questions on a theme to drive conversation. Whether people lurk, share (Tweet), or do a little of both, everybody who uses the hashtag is welcome.

As just one example, a Fortune 10 Technology Company, which teaches kids good digital citizenship practices, needed some help amplifying social media buzz, generating impressions, getting contest/giveaway entries, driving website traffic, and raising awareness. So, we organized a Twitter party for them, with one brand panelist, four Forward moderators, and 19 community panelists. One-hundred seventy-three people participated in this hour-long party encouraging everyone to extend the Golden Rule when using the Internet. The party generated 1,659 tweets, and a further 800 people submitted entries for a giveaway.

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Also, throughout the month of October, the Forward Influence Network celebrated National Bullying Prevention Month by spreading tips and messages centered on online kindness. This campaign also included a catered live event, which influencers promoted on their blogs and social media accounts. More than 60 parenting influencers attended the live event. Two YouTube and podcast influencers spoke about the event on their channels, and six Instagram influencers blitzed the channel, empowering parents across the US to start conversations with their families about how to defend themselves against bullying online and offline.

How You Can Leverage Twitter Parties In Your Next Cause/Influencer Marketing Campaign

  1. Select a nonprofit that represents the cause you want to bring attention to.
  2. Set goals, for them and for you, in terms of reach, impressions, click-throughs, or donations.
  3. Vet the right influencers.
  4. Invite people, through blog and social media posts.
  5. Provide a giveaway product or service.
  6. Create a giveaway in Rafflecopter or another giveaway tool.
  7. Gather panelists from the nonprofit, your brand, and the community.
  8. Come up with a unique hashtag around which the party will center.
  9. Generate several conversation-starting questions.
  10. Moderate and encourage the conversation.
  11. Track ROI.

Or, hire Forward Influence. We’ve driven BILLIONS of impressions for thousands of brands in 13 years of managing Twitter Parties. We’d love to do the same for yours.

What Twitter Parties Can Help You Achieve

Twitter is a great platform for lively, educated, and serious conversations. Get the right influencers talking about an important issue and virality becomes a very real possibility.

How the Fortune 10 Tech Company’s Cause Marketing and Influencer Marketing Combo Campaign Drove Success

  • 433 people participated in the Twitter campaign which generated 4,323 tweets.
  • An influencer was featured on the largest Hispanic TV show—Univision Segment—where she discussed the campaign and helped spread the word even more.

5. Blog Tours

In addition to the Twitter party for the Fortune 10 tech company, 46 influencers participated in a blog tour and shared positivity across their social media channels.

What They Are

Blog tours are campaigns in which influencers each post unique on their blogs and promote that content across their social media channels. If requested, they may also link to the other participating influencers’ posts. Blog tours are not “Blitzes” in which bloggers post at the same time. Rather, they drip the content in a staggered fashion over a specific amount of time. Blog tours can roll out and wrap up quickly (say, in a couple of weeks or over a month). Or, they may be more of an Ambassador Program, where influencers post regularly over several years.

Blog tours work best for brands and causes when the cause or stories of the people impacted by certain problems requires a bit more explanation. Yes, longer stories and more in-depth descriptions can appear on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, but influencers can’t post links to other influencers in the campaign, at least not naturally (i.e., not in the comments). Truly organic awareness-spreading and evergreen content (read: SEO) happens best with blog tours. An added benefit is that blogs are great places for including videos. And, social media promotion drives great views of the written and video content.

The Fortune 10 tech company that sponsored the Twitter party also sponsored a successful blog tour. The combination drove the point home while helping to spread the message far and wide.

How You Can Leverage Blog Tours In Your Next Cause/Influencer Marketing Campaign

  1. Select the nonprofit or cause that best aligns with the cause you’d like to spread awareness of.
  2. Vet just the right influencers.
  3. Specify, in a contract or Scope of Work, the points about the cause that need to be brought out, the timeframe of the blog tour, whether or not a giveaway product or products will need to be promoted as well, and keywords you’d prefer they use.
  4. Watch the content roll out.
  5. Track ROI.

What Blog Tours Can Help You Achieve

If your goal is education, then this is your best option. Blog posts can be optimized for search engines, and if they are, they can be found by Google searches for months or even years after they’re posted. Influencers educate their audiences by explaining the problem behind the cause that you, the nonprofit, and they are championing. This might mean SIDS, as in the first example above, domestic violence, too much plastic, or any number of other problems.

How the Fortune 10 Tech Company’s Influencer Marketing/Cause Marketing Campaign Drove Success

The blog tour portion of the campaign exceeded the contracted reach by 126 percent.

Wrap It Up

Influencer Marketing continues to grow by leaps and bounds and cause marketing not only makes sense for the world, but also for your brand’s bottom line as well. Many options exist for campaigns of either type (many more when you combine Influencer Marketing with cause marketing). And of course, they’re not limited to Instagram or Twitter. If you’re looking for examples of other successful Influencer Marketing/Cause Marketing campaigns, check out these examples of other brands that are getting great ROI from those kinds of campaigns. Whether you decide to do any or all of the following events, you’ll enjoy not only achieving your goals, but also feeling good about changing the world, which is a very good feeling.

  • Influencer-hosted in-home live event
  • Instagram blitz
  • Instagram campaign
  • Twitter party
  • Blog tour


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