Social media celebrities helping charities spread the word on causes

Local YouTube celebrity group Tree Potatoes. Social media celebrities are going beyond plugging the latest new gadget or make-up product on their blogs or Instagram or YouTube accounts. -- PHOTO: TREE POTATOES
Local YouTube celebrity group Tree Potatoes. Social media celebrities are going beyond plugging the latest new gadget or make-up product on their blogs or Instagram or YouTube accounts. -- PHOTO: TREE POTATOES

Social media celebrities are going beyond plugging the latest new gadget or make-up product on their blogs or Instagram or YouTube accounts.

They are also using their popularity to spread the word about good causes among their followers.

Known as "influencers" in the industry, most have been doing their part for charity pro bono.

While some of these celebrities do it out of interest, others are approached by charities that see this as a way to reach out to more young people online.

Charities said they meet influencers or read their posts and try to engage those who identify with their values.

The National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, for example, worked with 30 social media stars for its Giving Tuesday campaign last year.

One of them was Mr Xavier Ong, 21, who blogs about fashion and food.

Mr Ong, who has 12,000 Instagram followers, told The Straits Times: "You never know the positive difference that can be made from even just one person reading a blog post."

Within the first week of last year's Giving Tuesday drive, over $683,000 was raised on online donation portal SG Gives, exceeding the $559,282 collected during the same period the year before.

Habitat for Humanity Singapore also engaged influencers for the first time last year, to promote its Bare Your Sole charity walk. "Individually, social media influencers' reach can easily be in the tens of thousands. We wanted to tap these fan bases and expand our reach beyond those already aware and supportive of our work," said Ms Melodie Lee, the charity's resource development manager.

One of the influencers that the charity partnered was Tree Potatoes, a five-member group with almost 275,000 subscribers on YouTube.

Its publicity video for the Bare Your Sole event had almost 140,000 views. Co-founder Janice Chiang, 27, said: "We agreed to help as it was for a good cause. If it's within our capacity, we are willing to do our part to help the less fortunate."

Social media marketing firm Gushcloud, which represents bloggers, helped 15 non-profit organisations and social enterprises promote their campaigns last year, up from just four in 2012.

"From 2013, we started having the slogan: 'With great influence, comes great responsibility'," said Gushcloud co-founder Althea Lim, 30. "If you're going to influence people, why not, for once, use that influence to help the needy?"

Gushcloud manages about 200 influencers.

Meanwhile, blog advertising firm Nuffnang said its bloggers supported 10 charitable campaigns last year, up from three in 2013.

The Singapore Kindness Movement has also been engaging social media celebrities to help with its campaigns. However, it pays them just as it would for any other marketing aid.

A spokesman said: "People are spending more time online and there is an emerging trend of interest in these online personalities."

goyshiyi@sph.com.sg