HOW TO BUILD A SOLID MICRO-INFLUENCER PROGRAM (AKA: Ambassador Program)
A micro-influencer program is used by businesses and nonprofit organizations to “borrow the networks” of individuals who love what you do…or, in a for-profit business, want to earn some income by selling your product or service. In some cases, this type of program might be called an “Ambassador Program.”
After overseeing one such program for a mid-size nonprofit, I gleaned a tremendous amount about building a micro-influencer program. We had around 300 Ambassadors who played a significant role in raising funds and helping us gain a tremendous amount of exposure.
There are many benefits of a micro-influencer program. First and foremost, just about every individual has someone they influence. In today’s social media world, some folks have large audiences they influence. If that is not the case, just about everyone has a network at work, in their profession, at their school or church, or even if you are like my wife…everyone! Second, a well-built program will serve as both an acquisition program and a cultivation program. In the for-profit world, acquisition and cultivation would be akin to business development and up-sales—in short, gaining new constituents and getting them to do more of what you want (spreading your message, donating, purchasing, etc.).
Below are four foundational principles I have learned over the years in working in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors and, most recently, while overseeing an extremely successful micro-influencer program. In our case, we called this our “Ambassador Program” (Part 2 of this article is Maximize a Micro-influencer Program):
ONE | Do the hard work of understanding “the why?” Hopefully, you understand the real value your organization offers…we educate young children, help families adopt, feed starving chidlren, or sell this or that widget. To build a micro-influencer program, your organization must understand why others want to be associated with you. Do individuals purely love your mission and vision? Are you trendy, and individuals wish to ride the wave you are creating? Are you associated with a celebrity that individuals want to be around? You must do the challenging work to understand the why and be brutally honest, or all your time and energy may be wasted.
TWO | Understand the objective of the program. If you are unclear or can’t articulate the purpose of the micro-influencer program, you can’t find the right individuals to help, nor can you tell them how to contribute to your cause. Again, a clear objective is essential.
THREE | Be selective. If you build an attractive program, individuals will clamber to join your cause. At the organization I led, we decided to settled in on the right number of Ambassadors and had to turn away a good number as well. We had a rigorous application process as well as a committee of fellow Ambassadors who poured over the candidates and made selections. If you select the wrong candidates, they will, at minimum, do a poor job of achieving their objectives; at maximum, they will misrepresent your organization in a way that produces harm. Remember, these influencers are your representatives…for better or worse. Being selective also creates a culture of honor and value.
FOUR | Be pure. Understanding the “why,” clarifying the program’s objective, and being selective must all be aligned. If your foundational points are not in alignment, emotionally intelligent individuals will see through you. In the nonprofit world, you cannot manipulate volunteers into doing what you want—you have legislative power, not executive control, so don’t abuse it (see Jim Collins, Good to Great for the Social Sector). Have clear and pure motives for what can be such an essential part of your organization. On the for-profit side, money motivates – use it!
Part Two of this article will address several tactics our Mosaic team uses to optimize a foundationally strong program.
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