Unless you’ve been hibernating for a few years, or you are not in the target demographic group, you’ll know all about YouTube superstars like Zoella (@ZoZeeBo), her boyfriend Alfie, and @pewdiepie and their extraordinary power to influence and attract ‘the youth of today’. Seems you don’t have to be on TV or make music to be a celebrity any more. YouTube, Instagram and Twitter are all you need to build up a following, along with an insatiable appetite to post videos, photos and tweets about your life. Zoella – a beauty, fashion and lifestyle vlogger – has 8m subscribers on YouTube. A photo of her new haircut attracted almost 600,000 on Instagram in week. Pewdiepie – a gaming vlogger – has 36m subscribers. They now appear in Debrett’s top 500 influential people. You don’t have to understand why, but if you’re trying to understand what makes tomorrow’s donors tick you need to know what’s happening out there.
Naturally charities are wondering how they might tap into these internet celebrities’ influence to get their cause to a wider audience. Indeed some have already done it. But my advice to most small charities is don’t bother trying. Why? If you succeed, which is doubtful, you won’t know what’s hit you when you get their audience momentarily interested in your cause, and they probably won’t become long-term supporters. Here’s why:
The suits have already moved in. It may look like these celebrities are accessible but the window has now closed and you’re probably going to have to go through agents or just catch them on a good day. They get so many requests, like when everyone tried to get Stephen Fry to tweet their cause. He can’t do it all so he picks the ones he likes. They will support some organisations of course, but join the queue.
Your website will probably melt down when Zoella nods in your direction. Is it mobile-friendly? The vast majority of the click-throughs to your site will be on mobile devices. Does it make clear the problem is you’re trying to solve, and how someone can help? If that’s not obvious in the first 2 seconds you’ve missed the opportunity. Are you planning to answer every tweet and comment that comes your way? Is you brand message strong enough to withstand the attention? You’ll be mentioned, linked to and re-tweeted with comments that you have no hope of controlling.
So before you decide to approach these celebrities and enter their world, have you considered what kind of response you want or expect? If you’re looking for a steady flow of new monthly donors you should probably look elsewhere, but if you’ve got a strong brand and you want to increase awareness among young people then go for it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.