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How to Plan a Social Media Collaboration

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You don’t have to manage your digital marketing alone. In fact, you shouldn’t. Planning a social media collaboration with another relevant brand can work wonders for your online presence.

Let’s talk about what this means, how to do it, and what some of the benefits are.

Wait, What’s a Social Media Collaboration?

Good question. When we say “social media collaboration,” we mean that you combine forces with another brand and come up with a mutually beneficial plan to improve your digital marketing presence.

There are countless ways to collaborate. Commonly, brands will partner to host a contest or giveaway, but this certainly isn’t your only option.

Throughout this blog, we’ll have more examples of specific social media collaborations.

How Do You Plan a Social Media Collaboration?

This takes careful planning well in advance, and that’s one of the first things you need to know. Do not wait until the last minute!

But let’s back up and start from the beginning. Here are the points you need to consider.

1. Find the Right Brand to Collaborate With

Remember that the goal here is to expand your reach and acquire new followers (read: potential customers). In order to do that, you need to partner with a brand that will expose you to a new audience, but one who will care about your product or service.

It’s not just about working with a brand with a huge audience! Quality is as important as quantity, if not more important.

Let’s run through an example together.

If you’re a gym owner, it might make sense to plan a social media collaboration with any of the following types of businesses:

  • A nutrition company or supplement brand.
  • Apparel.
  • Fitness gear/equipment.
  • Fitness or other wellness apps.

These partnerships make sense and can also expose you to new people who — we have good reason to believe — will be interested in your brand.

Something else to look for in a brand that you’ll perhaps collaborate with is one that’s already active on social media. If they’re not already putting time, energy, and resources into their digital marketing strategy, it’s safe to assume that you don’t stand to gain much from collaborating with them.

Aside from their social media, look for a brand that’s actively working to grow their email list. This is super important, and we’ll touch on it more in just a bit.

It probably goes without saying, but don’t go after a brand that you’re competing with in any way, shape, or form.

2. Start With the End in Mind – Pick a Goal!

“Increase our reach” isn’t a goal. “Grow our following” isn’t even a goal. You need a goal that you can track and measure. Otherwise, your social media collaboration is pointless, and you’ll have no way of knowing if it even worked.

Whatever your goal may be, stay away from things like increasing your follower count. In previous blog posts, we’ve talked about how this is a relatively silly metric to obsess over, since it’s no indication of conversions or sales. The same can be said for your social media collaboration.

If your goal is to increase follower count, one of two things will happen:

  1. You won’t succeed, rendering the collaboration pointless.
  2. You will succeed, and then… nothing, because more followers does not equal more conversions.

Plus, bear in mind that if you’re holding a contest, and one of the requirements for people to enter is to follow you, many of them will do so only for the contest, and then immediately unfollow you once it’s over.

So, if increasing your follower count isn’t a good goal, what is?

The most powerful and meaningful goal you can have is to gain new email subscribers and grow your list. Why? Simple. These are warm leads, they’re relationships you can nurture, and email marketing has the highest ROI of every type of marketing.

Your email list is priceless, and it’s the backbone of your business. This is the perfect focal point for your social media collaboration.

There are many ways you can go about this. One common method is to require people to enter a contest or giveaway by submitting their name and email.

While figuring out your goal, you should also think about which social media platform(s) you want to focus on. You might not have the exact same channels as the other brand. Or maybe you do, but it just doesn’t make sense to try to tackle all of them.

For instance, if you’re both using Instagram for business and you’re seriously crushing it, it might make sense to do an IG collaboration specifically. It’ll be more effective to dominate on one platform, as opposed to spreading yourself too thin and getting mediocre results across two or more platforms.

3. Build Trust With Your Audience — Pick a Brand You Can Get Behind

You’ve worked hard and put a lot of time into growing your social media audience. These people trust you and look to you for sound advice. Don’t rock the boat by picking a brand that you’re not 100% thrilled and proud to work with.

Providing value and offering an excellent experience to your audience should still be your top priority — not selling or growing your email list. Yes, those are awesome goals, and you should keep track of these metrics. But if your goal is all business, and you put truth and authenticity on the back burner, your entire social media collaboration is going to backfire, guaranteed.

Oreo and the NCTE worked together to create something  people care about.

Take away the element of collaboration for a moment. If you’re considering working with a brand, stop and take a step back, and ask yourself… “Would I pay for their product or service? Would I feel good about recommending them to my friends and family? Do they seem trustworthy, knowledgeable, genuine, and legitimate?”

If you can’t answer these questions in the way you’d need to in order to become a customer yourself, this is not the brand to collaborate with.

Remember that the brands you work with are a reflection of your own business. Plan a social media collaboration with the wrong company, and you risk tarnishing your own reputation. Once that happens, it’s hard to come back.

Choose wisely.

4. Have Clear Expectations and Deadlines

The more people you have working on a campaign or project, the easier it is for things to slip through the cracks. Take care not to drop the ball — and don’t let the brand you’re collaborating with do so either.

Keeping each other accountable is crucial in order for this to work. To do this, you need to have a crystal clear timeline and be on the same page regarding who’s responsible for what.

What are the deliverables? When are the due dates? What is each side responsible for, and what are you both committing to, specifically?

Don’t just assume your partner knows what they’re responsible for, and most definitely, don’t leave anything up to memory. Craft a clear, concise written strategy that leaves no doubt as to what all of your jobs and responsibilities are. Both brands need to hold up their end of the deal!

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5. Choose a Campaign That Triggers Emotions and Gets People Talking

Giving away free stuff is cool and all, but when you involve some kind of emotional element, your followers are going to be way more invested.

Think of it this way: If it gets you excited and feeling inspired, it’s more likely to do the same for both of your audiences, as well.

One idea is to somehow incorporate a charitable cause, or otherwise find a way to give back to the community somehow.

If you’re that gym owner we mentioned earlier, and you partner with an apparel company, will they agree to donate clothes to the needy? Will you hold free classes for children or senior citizens?

This isn’t just about you, the other brand, business, or making money. Your social media collaboration is also a really good opportunity to do something kind for others — and get your followers in on it, too. You might very well be reaching the largest number of people you ever have before. Why not use the opportunity to do something good in the world?

6. Consider Seasonal and Holiday Events

Evergreen content (meaning not tine-sensitive), is always a great idea, and you should have plenty of it. When it comes to your social media collaboration, though, also consider campaigns that align with anything seasonal or holiday-related. Examples include:

  • The first day of the new season.
  • Back to school.
  • Major holidays — Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, etc.
  • Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

These are special times for businesses, and they’re already getting a ton of traffic online. You can get a piece of that by aligning your social media collaboration with it — when it makes sense, of course.

For instance, if you’re an office supply store, and you’re collaborating with an office tech brand (computers, printers, etc.), the back-to-school season might be red hot for you.

Anyone in the fitness and nutrition industries will be wise to plan for the first day of summer. Why? Swimsuit season!

Don’t force this to work where it obviously doesn’t make sense. It needs to fit in well with both of your brands. But do take a look at your calendar and keep your eyes open for important days coming up in the future.

Here’s an example of a summer campaign from Shutterfly and Hawaiian Airlines.

7. Follow a Style Guide

Does your brand have a style guide? It should. A style guide tells your team members all about the fonts, colors, logos, layouts, and formats you use, so that anytime any kind of document, graphic, etc. is produced for your brand, there’s uniformity.

You should consider having an adjusted style guide specifically for your social media collaboration that reflects not just your brand, not just the other brand, but how your two brands are going to work together.

It’s not as simple as slapping your logos together and calling it a day. What about fonts, colors, templates? Does the guide need to be super in-depth? Probably not. This campaign is a short-term project, so it’s likely not necessary.

However, there should be a manual that anyone can access at any point and know exactly how their graphics, PDFs, social media posts, and so on should look.

Preparation and communication are key. Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need to plan your social media collaboration, be upfront and transparent with the brand you’re working with, and have a clear goal and strategy laid out.