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How to Get The Most Value Out of Brand Partnerships on Social Media

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  • How to Get The Most Value Out of Brand Partnerships on Social Media

When’s the last time you came across a brand partnership on social media and felt hooked instantly?

Maybe you can pinpoint the exact moment when you saw that social media post and knew you had to learn more. Or maybe you remember the partnership because it was between two of your favorite brands.

When social media users see brand partnerships, novelty is what grabs and holds their attention. This type of content isn’t created every day, so it catches users by surprise and disrupts the monotony of mindlessly scrolling past post after post.

When done right, partnerships are mutually beneficial for all parties involved — leading to increased brand awareness, trust, and (if you play your cards right) conversions. So it’s no secret why 74% of brands view forming partnerships as a high priority.

But from the brand side of things, how do you recognize a good partnership opportunity when you see it? And once you do, how can you get the most value out of your co-marketing campaigns on social media?

Fortunately, this guide will cover all of that and more.

Why Co-Marketing On Social Media Works

Partnerships — i.e., co-marketing collaborations — have a track record for delivering great results at a reasonable cost for brands. In fact, a majority of surveyed business leaders claimed that partnerships generate more than 20% of total company revenue.

Some brands will also offer reimbursements to partners that meet or exceed campaign goals. Not only does this add extra incentive in a partnership deal, but you — as a digital marketer — are able to extend audience outreach without boosting posts through paid advertising.

And that’s because when you partner with one or more brands, you automatically tap into their built-in audience of followers on social media (and vice versa). So, as you reduce marketing spend, you also double your reach and elevate your brand reputation at the same time.

From a cost-perspective, co-marketing is well worth the investment, but the perks don’t stop there. By sharing co-branded content on social media, you’re in a better position to earn consumer trust and improve brand favorability.

The caveat here is that not every brand partnership will deliver the results you want. To see the best short- and long-term outcomes, you have to be selective and strategic long before you even think about initiating a partnership deal with a brand.

How To Get The Most Value Out Of Brand Partnerships

Now that we’ve established why brand partnerships are worth the marketing spend, let’s explore how you can make the most out of your current and future partnerships. This guide will outline four best practices for building a successful partnership from the ground up:

  1. Know How To Spot The Best Potential Partners
  2. Invest In Short-Term & Long-Term Partnerships
  3. Get Inspired By Brand Partnership Success Stories
  4. Incentivize Social Media Users To Create UGC

Without further ado, let’s get started.

1. Know How To Spot The Best Potential Partners

While it’s obviously in your best interest to not partner with a direct competitor, there really aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to forming brand partnerships. As long as your target audience overlaps with their target audience, any brand could be a potential partner.

This is great news for brands because it opens up the opportunity for creative and unconventional partnerships, like this one between CoverGirl and Lucasfilm:

brand partnerships

From first impressions alone, a partnership between a beauty brand and an entertainment company doesn’t seem like it should work. But when you take a closer look, this type of co-marketing campaign is actually ingenious.

This social media campaign was launched months before the 2015 release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. For Lucasfilm, it was an opportunity to promote the film and create more public buzz. For CoverGirl, it was an opportunity to tap into a larger audience and promote their makeup products.

The takeaway here is that a partnership can seem unconventional and still be highly successful. You just need to make sure that a potential partner checks off all your boxes when it comes to brand mission, brand reputation, audience overlap, and the “So What?” factor.

Let’s break each of these criteria down:

A Brand’s Mission

By definition, you are deliberately choosing to associate your brand with another brand when you form a partnership. So if a brand partner’s mission doesn’t align with yours, then a co-marketed campaign could jeopardize your relationship with prospects and current customers.

For instance, if your brand’s core mission is to provide eco-friendly alternatives to not-so-eco-friendly products, it probably isn’t the best idea to partner with a company that openly goes against that.

Even if you share a similar target audience with the brand, it’s a moot point if the company’s ethos and values don’t align with yours.

Brand Reputation

The second factor you need to consider is brand reputation. And that’s because, as you know, it’s one thing to include a mission statement on a website and it’s another thing to actually follow through with the mission.

A brand’s reputation reveals a lot about how their audience perceives them. This information can help you predict whether their audience (and yours) would respond positively to a brand partnership.

With some savvy research and a social media audit of the brand’s platforms, you can vet prospective partners long before you approach them about a partnership deal.

Reviews on public forums, comments on social media posts, and engagement rates are all things that you’ll want to pay attention to at this stage.

Once you get a good sense of the brand’s reputation, you’ll have a better idea of whether the brand is actually a compatible fit for a partnership. From there, it comes down to two things: 1) audience overlap and 2) the “So what?” factor.

Audience Overlap

Brands form partnerships for any number of reasons, but ultimately, the main motivators are increased brand awareness, audience engagement, and conversions. To reap any of these benefits, however, there has to be some degree of audience overlap.

Audience overlap is when your brand’s customer demographic matches your brand partner’s customer demographic. While this doesn’t have to be an exact match (think CoverGirl and Lucasfilm), a shared audience is crucial for partnerships.

If your target audience is young professionals working in video or film production, then it makes sense that you would partner with brands that cater to this same audience. The more niche your target audience is, the more selective you’ll probably need to be when choosing brand partners.

When social media users come across a co-branded post, you want them to be interested and excited to learn more. If the content isn’t relevant to them — i.e., there is no audience overlap — then you’ll be hard-pressed to see the results you want.

The “So What?” Factor

Once you know that there’s an audience overlap between your brand and another brand, the only thing left to do is address the “So what?” factor. To do that, you need to be able to answer the question: “Why should social media users care about this partnership?”

Will your brand partnership make users’ lives easier? Will they be able to enter into a giveaway and win something? In other words, what’s in it for them?

Maybe as part of your brand partnership, you’re launching an exciting new co-branded product or service. A great example of this is when Apple and MasterCard partnered together to create the Apple Pay app.

In this case, the “So what?” factor for this partnership was that it simplified the buying experience for customers. By storing your credit card data in the app, you could make payments anywhere — even if you didn’t have the card on-hand.

At the end of the day, successful partnerships are partnerships that the target audience cares about. When social media users recognize the value in your partnerships, they feel more inclined to learn about the opportunity and take action.

2. Invest In Short-Term & Long-Term Partnerships

As you narrow down your list of potential partners to the best options, the next step is to decide whether you want to form short-term or long-term partnerships. Not only does your marketing budget impact this decision, but also how many partners you’ll work with at any given time.

According to one study, most brands (67%) prefer to invest in large partnerships (and have less than 100 partners) instead of 100+ small partnerships — and the rationale makes sense.

Brands with a large social media presence have a wider reach than brands with a smaller presence and fewer followers. By investing time and resources into a partnership with a large brand, you can spread more brand awareness and even see a lift in brand favorability.

But even though this sounds great, don’t discount small brands right away.

Small and niche audiences on social media are often more engaged than large audiences. In fact, micro influencers — who have between 10,000 and 100,000 followers — get 6.7 times more engagement than influencers with more followers.

Whether you partner with small brands, large brands, or a combination of both, it’s a good idea to start out with short-term partnerships, monitor the success, and go from there. If a short-term partnership is highly successful, a long-term partnership might be the natural next step.

3. Get Inspired By Brand Partnership Success Stories

A brand partnership is a co-marketing collaboration, but it’s also an opportunity to think outside of the box and get creative. No two brand partnerships are exactly the same, so a great way to get inspiration for your next partnership is to check out other brands’ success stories.

To help jumpstart your initial brainstorming process, here are three partnerships that check off all the boxes for a successful partnership:

Zoom & Slack

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Image source: Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Zoom and Slack have an ongoing partnership that allows teams to jump into a Zoom call from a Slack channel. This in-app Zoom integration was designed to improve user experience and help teams streamline communication (and it did exactly that).

Sherwin-Williams & Pottery Barn

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As part of Pottery Barn’s long-standing partnership with Sherwin-Williams, the paint manufacturing company provides a seasonal paint palette that can be coordinated with Pottery Barn’s furniture.

This partnership makes it easier and more convenient for customers of both brands to choose the right interior design for their home.

Buzzfeed & Best Friends Animal Society

Partnerships don’t always have to be between two brands. As you can see in the video above, a partnership can also be between a brand and a nonprofit organization.

Buzzfeed and Best Friends Animal Society partnered together for this interview with Emma Watson to attract a lot of viewers, create entertaining content, and direct more support to the nonprofit. (And it worked — the video has more than 28 million views.)

4. Incentivize Social Media Users To Create UGC

By partnering with another brand, you’re automatically increasing audience reach. But here’s the thing: You can reach even more people if you incentivize social media users to create and share their own content as part of your co-marketing campaign.

Let’s say that, for the partnership between CoverGirl and Lucasfilm, CoverGirl shared an Instagram post encouraging users to post a photo of themselves with their own Star Wars-inspired makeup look and then tag both brands for entry in a giveaway.

This type of user-generated content (UGC) can help you get a ton of public exposure without spending extra marketing dollars on content creation. Not only that, but prospects who see UGC are 184% more likely to convert.

It’s a simple but highly effective strategy for brands, whether as part of a partnership or not. But it certainly is a valuable byproduct of any healthy (and effective) brand partnership on social media.

Final Thoughts on Brand Partnerships

Of course, there are many factors to consider when searching for the best potential brand partners and deciding on the terms of the partnership — especially since a single partnership could immediately double or triple your audience reach.

As you search for potential brand partners, keep in mind that a brand partnership is an opportunity to create a great first impression with new prospects. The other side of that coin is the fact that building a successful partnership doesn’t happen overnight.

The entire process starts with being selective and finding the right partners, not just the biggest or most engaging. But hopefully this guide becomes a helpful resource as you work toward optimizing your brand partnerships on social media and setting your brand up for continued success.

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