The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media and digital. View this season's finalists!

Special Project

Special Project
From the 16th Annual Shorty Awards

The National Education Association Member Influencer Program

Finalist in Social Good Campaign


When the world shut down in March 2020, America’s educators took to virtual classrooms to keep their students learning and engaged. They also took to Instagram and TikTok, providing their audiences with education best practices, coping and classroom management strategies, and, yes, #teacherootds. 


In 2022, the National Education Association (NEA), the largest labor union in the country, saw that educators were providing a vital resource to their students, caregivers, and fellow educators through largely unpaid labor on Instagram and TikTok. NEA and M+R hypothesized that if influencer content could work for consumer marketing, it could work for cause marketing. The NEA member influencer program proves that this is not only true for in-platform content, but also for paid advertising programs across platforms. 


Throughout 2022, the NEA partnered with M+R to launch a pilot to partner with 5-10 influencers to produce organic social content on their platforms and engage educators, caregivers, and supporters on pressing issues affecting education. In 2023, this program quickly grew to over 100 member influencers to produce 220 individual pieces of content. The videos drew millions of organic engagements and helped build public pressure on politicians like Governor Desantis banned AP African American Studies in Florida or to build support for Montana State Rep. Zooey Zephyr when she was silenced for advocating for trans students. 


Today, NEA’s member influencers continue to make content about everything that touches their lives in the classroom: child hunger, democracy protection, book bans, gun violence, and Supreme Court decisions.


Strategy and Execution

We ensured the success of the 2023 Member Influencer program through four areas of focus: research, capitalizing on rapid response moments via organic and paid strategies, efficient project management, and experimentation with a cohort model. 


Research: Every influencer involved in the NEA Member Influencer Program must be an NEA member. While there are several pay-to-play influencer databases available, the needs of this program require intensive research efforts, as TikTok and Instagram have thousands of teacher influencers (many of whom are not NEA members).. The NEA is deeply committed to diversity across race,gender, geography, and job category. Ensuring that the member influencer program reflects NEA’s larger membership requires navigating around an algorithm that tends to favor white creators, researching across news articles featuring influencers, and creating methods of tricking the geo targeted mechanisms of the platforms. This is a time-intensive and skilled research project that has yielded over 100 different creators in 37 states that spans job categories. 


Capitalizing on rapid response moments: Influencer content used in paid ads often outperform other types of creative. This was particularly true when focusing on breaking news – such as book bans during NEA’s annual Read Across America campaign or the Supreme Court's student loan decision-- in which member creators shared their personal experiences. Our deep, long term relationships with these influencers allowed us to quickly turn around impactful content, especially on campaigns where educators' jobs and identities were under attack.


Efficient project management: We built an efficient and low cost PM system in Google Workspace that was more nimble than existing off the shelf CRMs, a crucial move because the influencer landscape is large and ever growing. Following the small pilot in 2022 and ambitious goals for 2023, increased project management and coordination between the NEA and M+R was critical. NEA and M+R are committed to paying member influencers an industry-leading rate, so keeping administrative costs low is also critical. 


Experimentation with a cohort model: In 2022, we set up an influencer cohort of three creators. Each creator was paid a flat fee to attend monthly virtual meetings with one another, NEA and M+R in order to brainstorm content, give program feedback, and film five videos each based on ideas they pitched to us based on their expertise and passion. Video topics included union solidarity, reasons to join a union, student debt, and a NEA-sponsored giveaway to their followers. This program allowed the member influencers to co-create content with the NEA and to empower the influencers to inform strategy as they regularly navigate algorithmic changes and build their online communities. 



In 2023, the member influencer program drove 2,046,665 organic engagements across member channels, and an additional 719,709 views on the NEA Today Instagram account. The paid advertising campaigns using influencer produced content generated 2.27M impressions. We saw over 22k shares, over 345k link clicks at an efficient $0.55 average cost per engagement, and an average cost per link click of $0.69. All of these metrics surpassed industry benchmarks. 


An established program and team allowed NEA to respond to moments such as the silencing of Rep. Zooey Zephyr and efforts to ban books. The NEA’s response to Gov. DeSantis’s move to block an AP African American studies course leveraged five Florida member influencers. This campaign was stood up in less than 72 hours and produced 29,758 engagements. 

For a campaign encouraging educators to join their state affiliate unions, we engaged influencers in 37 states (and counting!) to produce 41 videos resulting in 205,795 organic engagements. We also directly partnered with the New York state affiliate to produce 5 influencer videos resulting in 48,663 engagements over the course of the campaign. Those videos were used in a paid ads program.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

M+R, The National Education Association


Entry Credits