Social and Influencer > Social Insights & Engagement




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Why is this work relevant for Social & Influencer?

Raising Profiles is a first-of-its-kind partnership between The Big Issue and LinkedIn using the power of social media to transform The Big Issue’s business model and the lives of its vendors. It is relevant for Social & Influencer because it produced a novel way for vendors to use social media to identify and engage high-value users they had lost contact with, producing measurable results whilst building and elevating vendors’ relationships with their customers.


The Big Issue gives vulnerably housed people the means to earn a legitimate income by selling its magazine on high streets across the UK. When the first UK lockdown hit, it went from selling 80,000 magazines a week to zero. This erased vendors’ livelihoods, visibility and connection to the community, with 80% of vendors experiencing feelings of loneliness.

At the time, the founder of The Big Issue said, “we have to accept that we don’t have an income if we don’t have a street”. Our brief was to help get the business and their vendors trading online. There were two critical challenges 1) vendors lack digital skills and equipment; and 2) our activity had to find pre-existing customers in absence of a digital database.

This case illustrates our how our innovative approach enabled Big Issue vendors to virtually reclaim their “street”, reconnect with their customers and regain their income.

Describe the creative idea

In partnership with LinkedIn, we launched “Raising Profiles”, a digital inclusion project designed to improve vendors’ digital confidence, build an online network and use LinkedIn as their virtual “street corner”.

Vendors were given tablets donated by Dixons. Through a combination of group and individual training sessions, we helped them set up their profiles and navigate the platform. This was followed up with safeguarding resources to ensure that they understood any potential risks and ways to mitigate them.

Raising Profiles enabled vendors to rebuild and reanimate their client base after an 8-month hiatus. They were taught?to post, comment and share content relevant to their interests and passions. ??After a warm reintroduction with their customers, vendors were able to make frictionless, contact free sales via a unique e-com?trigger, whereby customers could click through and buy a subscription from that specific vendor.

Describe the strategy

A baseline survey among vendors to ascertain their digital confidence revealed that despite seeing the internet as essential, few had regular access or confidence in using it. We needed to raise vendors’ digital confidence and also provide them a means to access the internet.

Research had also revealed the insight that customers supported The Big Issue because of the special bond they felt with their vendors. Identifying vendors’ “regulars” was key to unlocking their highest value audience and therefore the success of the initiative.

Partnering with LinkedIn, analysis revealed that 70% of vendors’ former customers were active on the platform. We realized we’d be able to identify former customers by cross-referencing workplaces against vendors’ pitch locations - with LinkedIn being the ONLY social platform that allowed us to do this. By using LinkedIn’s data, we’d be able to re-create vendors’ former neighborhoods digitally and reconnect them with their former customers.

Describe the execution

The pilot ran solely on LinkedIn with an initial pool of 9 vendors. They were given three weeks of training to help set up their profiles before we announced their presence on the platform to the world.

Once the PR began, the vendors were encouraged to actively seek out not only their former customers, but people who worked at the businesses around where they used to sell – even if they didn’t know them. The insight here being that even if the vendors didn’t know those businesspeople personally, the businesspeople probably knew the vendor by sight.

As their connections and posts grew exponentially, more and more vendors heard about the pilot and asked to join. The program is still ongoing, with plans in place between LinkedIn and the Big Issue to better automate the process and onboard more vendors.

List the results

There has been a significant subscription uplift since launch, with LinkedIn driving 96% of total subscription traffic. Total traffic for vendor subscriptions increased by 325% during this period. Magazine sales increased by 400%. The partnership also dramatically boosted vendors’ efficiency from a conversion rate of 1 sale per 50 offline interactions to 1 sale per 10 on LinkedIn.

Vendors amassed +2500 connections between them and several of their posts were viewed +300,000 times.

Raising Profiles also secured excellent coverage. In addition to appearing in most major UK news outlets, celebrities like Dame Kelly Holmes, Sadiq Khan and Gary Lineker shared the launch on their social media profiles. Giving us a combined reach of 81.5M and 112M impressions.

In the words of The Big Issue’s Executive Director: “The bigger result is the permanent perception shift in how people see our vendors. They’re professionals with every right to be on LinkedIn.”

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