Who are your organization's "influencers"? They're not who you think.

When I worked for nonprofits, I noticed the higher-ups were often preoccupied with the idea of our social media efforts reaching "influencers." They wanted to find that one magical person who could propel the organization to new heights with a single tweet. But if you're looking to reach "influencers," you might want to stop and ask yourself two key questions:



1. What are these people "influential" about? The key thing to do is determine who is influential for your organization, not on the Internet in general.

If you're drooling over Klout scores, step back for a second and consider: people usually gain traction on social channels by being influential about one thing in particular, whether it's fashion or sports or marketing or humor. Just because they are generally "influential" doesn't mean that the people who follow them will have any interest in your organization.

2. Are you only interested in this person because of their number of followers? At the end of the day, it's better to have 100 super-passionate followers who were actively engaged than 1,000 who couldn't care less.

Consider that there are people out in Social Medialand who maybe only tweet once a week and have 10 followers, but those 10 followers REALLY care what that person has to say. If that person is passionate about your cause, building a relationship with them could be really helpful.

While these people won't even be a blip on the radar by most standards of "influence," they're not useless - in fact, they could be the key to your success. And more people trust recommendations from people they actually know than from major public figures.

Now, I don't mean to say that high-profile people aren't worth your time. If you can cultivate a relationship with a high-profile person who is already passionate about your cause, there is a lot of potential for fundraising there (for example, The Oatmeal raising money for the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society this week).

The point is, you're not going to get Random Celebrity XYZ to care about your cause out of nowhere by trying to reach them on social media. But if they already are passionate about your cause and you can identify that with social data, then by all means, reach out. Just don't dismiss the value of the highly-engaged folks who may not have a huge number of followers in the process.

So, who are your organization's real influencers?

Photo credit: stevendepolo on Flickr