Social Media

How to Pick and Plan a Social Media Collaboration to Engage Customers

If you want to build your brand faster, a social media collaboration can be a game-changer. Here's how to pick and plan a collab based on your brand goals.

how to pick social media collabs

“Hey, we love your content! Interested in a collaboration?

You’ve probably seen fellow brands post similar comments across Instagram and TikTok, right? 

The rise of consumer-to-consumer marketing means more people are turning to social media for product recommendations and research.

Heck, 82% of consumers claim they’ve made or considered a purchase based on what friends, family and influencers post. 

That’s why brands are turning to creators and influencers to spread the word. After all, the benefits of social media collaborations between brands and creators are well-documented. This includes:

  • Boosting your brand’s reach and awareness
  • Building a collection of awesome customer content
  • Maximizing the impact of your marketing budget

Curious if social media collaborations make sense for your brand? This guide breaks it all down!

4 Social Media Collaboration Examples (and Why They Work)

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to collaborating with creators and influencers.

Are you focused on reaching new audiences?  Sign-ups and sales? Hyping a product launch?

All of the above? 

Either way, it’s crucial to understand how collabs work and actually tie back to your goals.

First thing’s first: let’s look at the most common types of social media collaboration opportunities. We’ll also highlight examples of how brands are turning their collabs into meaningful customer engagement.

1. Sponsored Content

Sponsored content is a type of media created by a third party on behalf of a brand to promote a product. Sponsored content is seen frequently on social media when a brand compensates a creator in exchange for posting about a product on their profiles. Most creators receive compensation for their posts through direct payment or gifted products.

And despite popular belief, sponsored content and traditional ads are not the same.

That’s because sponsored content is produced by a creator rather than the brand itself. Sure, brands will provide input and instructions to support the creator.

But the biggest upside of sponsored content is that creators can let their personalities, values and voices shine through their posts. 

sponsored content example

Source: @taylordini

Sponsored content works because of authenticity. Consumers respond better to unpolished and unfiltered content versus ads that feel like commercials. Fact: sponsored social videos are 62% more likely to generate a positive viewer reaction versus “traditional” ads. 

Translation? When ads feel human, they don’t feel like ads at all. 

On that note, humor is a proven way to make sponsored content work. This TikTok collaboration between Becca Bastos @actressbecc and Snapple is a great example:

social media collaboration snapple

Source: @actressbecc 

Rather than posting a “safe” sponsored post for Snapple, Becca incorporated Snapple into one of her comedy skits. Becca made a conscious effort for her sponsored post to feel just like the humor-driven content she posts on her own feed.

And given the level of engagement and positive responses from commenters, it’s clear that her creativity paid off (like, literally). 

snapple sponsored tiktok content

Source: @actressbecc 

Keep in mind that most consumers know when they’re watching an ad or looking at a sponsored post. Given the popularity of influencer marketing, sponsored content is more widespread than ever.

Thing is, talented creators will put effort into their posts so they don’t feel like generic ads. Doing so helps the creator delight their existing audience and creates a more impactful marketing asset for your brand.

Note: sponsored content must be identified and acknowledged through captions and hashtags (#ad, #gifted or #sponsored). Be sure to include this in your influencer brief when requesting sponsored content so creators remember to add it. 

2. User-Generated Content Campaigns

Investing in a social media collaboration doesn’t have to be a total time-sink.

Encouraging your followers and customers to post user-generated content (UGC) is as simple as, well, asking.

For example, many brands promote a branded hashtag on their Instagram or TikTok bio. Customers then publish content to the tag that shows off their latest purchases or shouts out the brand. This is a sort of passive way to generate consistent, ongoing engagement and collaboration opportunities.

Aside from forming a more personal connection with fans, branded hashtags are a way to source authentic UGC that you can repost and repurpose.

For example, HydroFlask promotes their #HeyLetsGo tag throughout their Instagram and website. 30,000+ customers have already shared product photos to the tag. In turn, HydroFlask republishes the best photos to their feed.

social media collab hydroflask ig 2_1social media collab hydroflask ig

Source: @hydroflask

Hashtag campaigns like this are probably the most “hands-off” examples of a social media collaboration (beyond asking for permission for republishing). That said, publishing UGC is a prime way to make an impression on your audience and uncover your biggest brand advocates.

Another upside of hashtag campaigns is the opportunity to repurpose UGC across all of your brand’s channels (hint: not just social media marketing). For example, HydroFlask sources customer photos from Instagram to add onto their product pages. This showcases what their products look like “in the wild” which is great for boosting conversions.

hashtag campaign example

Source: HydroFlask

But keep in mind that hashtags like this don’t take off overnight! If you decide to go the hashtag route for a UGC campaign, know that frequent publishing, promotion and patience are all required. 

Download the PDF "The Ultimate Guide to User-Generated Content Campaign ROI"

3. Brand Ambassadorships

Arguably the most involved form of social media collaboration, brand ambassador programs are booming in industries like beauty and fashion.

Think of brand ambassadors as your die-hard fans and biggest cheerleaders. You know, the customers that would gush about your brand without getting paid to do so. 

Through an ambassador program, you can encourage these types of customers and advocates to promote your brand long-term in exchange for compensation and other perks. Unlike sponsored content, collaborating with brand ambassadors usually represents an ongoing, long-term relationship.

Brands like Pura Vida are known for their extensive ambassador program. Once approved, ambassadors receive a promo code to share with their followers. Every time a follower makes a Pura Vida purchase with that specific promo code, the ambassador earns a commission. 

brand ambassador program example

Source: Pura Vida 

Aside from commission, ambassadors also earn perks like free products, a sneak peek at new launches and access to giveaways. Note that many brand ambassador programs offer exclusive discounts or free products instead of direct financial compensation.

Dedicated brand ambassador programs require a lot of legwork, though. This is especially true if you’re trying to pitch and hire them yourself.

Consider that the stakes are obviously higher when you have people acting as an extension of your brand. The process of vetting, compensating and managing relationships with ambassadors is no joke. That said, you’re almost always guaranteed high-effort, on-brand content. There’s definitely a trade-off.

4. Gifted Products

If you’re looking to get creators about your products ASAP, gifting products is a cost-effective way to make it happen.

The concept is simple — you hook creators up with freebies and samples in exchange for social shout-outs and reviews. “Free” is a powerful motivator for creators and influencers of all shapes and sizes. 

Gifted products are particularly effective for winning over up-and-coming influencers (aka micro-influencers). These creators are eager to work with brands and likewise will go the extra mile to make their promotions pop. It’s a win-win situation.

social media collaboration gifted product example

Source: @raising_two_daughters

This type of collab serves as a simple, DIY way to work with creators. In other words, you don’t need to worry about drawing up lengthy contracts or committing to a full-fledged partnership. These types of campaigns are also scalable, with the help of a hands-off micro-influencer platform

In situations where creators don’t love your product, the stakes are pretty low. Granted you’re courteous and positive in your outreach, there’s not much that can really go “wrong.” You’re basically out whatever free product you shipped, not to mention your time. And you may get some valuable product feedback in return if you follow up.

Speaking of time, gifting products does require you to research and conduct personalized outreach with creators. This can definitely eat into your schedule! After all, spamming influencers with freebies could hurt your reputation and likely won’t result in meaningful content.

If you want to test the waters of running an influencer collaboration with a handful of contacts, gifting products is a good place to start. Still, you’ll need to do your homework to find relevant influencers to spread the word (hint: we can help with that).

watch the webinar: how to drive sales with user-generated content in 2022

Why Social Media Collaborations Are So Valuable for Brands

If you’re on the fence about collabs, we get it.

Building meaningful relationships with creators and influencers doesn’t happen by accident. The process isn’t as simple as someone making a post and sending sales your way.

However, collabs should be a top priority for brands that want to give themselves a competitive advantage and scale faster. Below are some social media collaboration stats that highlight exactly why:

  • Influencers have greater reach (and often larger audiences) than brand accounts.  Organic social media engagement is tanking for brands right now. For reference, beauty influencers on Instagram earn three times the engagement rate on average that beauty brands do. Because influencers already have established and engaged audiences, working with them gives you instant access to new prospects that you likely won’t reach organically.
  • Collaborations on social media create social proof. Remember what we said earlier about the power of authenticity? Influencers create killer content because they know exactly what your audience wants to see. They share the same values, struggles and motivations as your customers. Given that 86% of consumers consider authenticity when deciding which brands to support, the value of creator-based campaigns is clear.
  • Social media collaborations can be more cost-effective than running ads. Sure, collaboration strategies like product gifting and UGC require time to scale. That said, they don’t break the bank by themselves. Consider how Facebook ad costs continue to rise, ultimately pricing out up-and-coming brands with limited budgets.

This is why brands are turning to sponsored social media posts and partnerships over paid ads (or finding opportunities to combine the two to improve ads ROI). Couple this with upcoming ad targeting changes and the popularity of influencers is only going to grow.

Another added bonus of influencer collaborations is that you can stretch your promotional budget further. Whereas leads and sales ultimately taper off when your ads do, creator partnerships provide you UGC and social proof that you can use, well, forever

How to Pick the Best Social Media Collaboration for Your Brand

Needless to say, you’ve got options!

There is no “right” answer here. Different types of social media collaborations have their pros and cons. That said, here are some considerations to help you hone in on a collab that makes perfect sense for your brand:

  • Assess your goals. Are you looking to boost brand awareness? Do you want to hype up new products or gain a greater share of voice versus your competitors? Once you have defined goals, see which type of collaboration matches best. For example, sponsored content and brand ambassadorships are more sales-focused than hashtags or gifted products.
  • Figure out the social media platforms you want to prioritize. Don’t spread yourself too thin. You can either choose to break into a totally new social channel or prioritize wherever you have the largest following. If you’re looking to reach younger customers, you might want to aim for sponsored posts through a TikTok collaboration. If you want to generate lifestyle photos of your products, consider an Instagram collaboration for UGC.
  • Be real about your bandwidth and budget. Depending on your budget (both time and money), gifted products might make more sense for you than sponsored content or a brand ambassadorship program. Likewise, the type of creators you involve in the campaign will have an impact on your bottomline. Creators with smaller followings may be open to creating sponsored content for free product alone. If you don’t have a dedicated marketing team to manage influencers and conduct outreach, working with a platform (like Statusphere!) is likely your best bet.
  • Find proven creators to maximize your engagement and reach. The amount of creative influencer talent out there is staggering. But how do you figure out who to pick? Consider audience size, engagement, personality, demographics, aesthetics and the list just goes on. Finding content creators requires you to put people and their profiles under the microscope to see if they fit with your brand.

social media collaboration reels example

Source: @lesliejoanny

What are the Keys to a Successful Social Media Collaboration?

To say that we’ve run our fair share of collabs here at Statusphere would be an understatement.

And trust us: we’ve seen it all!

To wrap things up, we’ll spill the tea of what makes or breaks a brand-creator partnership:

  • Personalize your proposal (and make it count). Great influencers get pitched all the time. Every social media collaboration proposal should be to the point and tailor-made for whoever it’s written for. Why should they work with you? What makes you stand out from the dozens of other brands pitching them every month?

If you want to write a proposal that stands out, check out our influencer outreach templates that actually earn responses.

influencer pitching
  • Be clear about your expectations. Creators aren’t mind-readers! Guidelines for tone, aesthetic and content type should be defined and agreed upon. Note that a successful influencer collaboration benefits both the brand and creator. You need to find a balance between instructions and giving influencers creative freedom. Remember: they know what they’re doing!
  • Define goals, metrics and KPIs for your campaign (and be real about them). Every collaborative campaign should be driven by both big-picture goals and specific numbers. Are you looking to increase your engagement rate? Traffic? Sales? Get a certain number of creators posting about your product? Reduce the overhead of creating content in-house? At the same time, keep in mind that results may take time to show. It takes an average of seven touches for a consumer to move from awareness to making a purchase, so running a 30-day campaign might not be enough time to get you to your goals.
  • Work with creators that match your audience and aesthetic. This is the big one! Influencer campaigns are as effective as the influencers themselves. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your brand gets matched with relevant influencers that know how to speak to your audience.

Which Social Media Collaborations Make Sense for Your Brand?

There’s no denying the work that goes into any given collaboration campaign.

That said, they’re well worth the investment. We’ve seen firsthand how word-of-mouth marketing can drive massive engagement (like 1.6 million people reached in 90 days).

But figuring out how to collaborate with social media influencers can be tricky if you’re totally new to the process.

If you want to speed up and scale your creator marketing efforts, a full-service platform like Statusphere is the answer. From vetting influencers to getting your products in their hands and measuring the success of your campaign, we handle it all.

Chat with one of our consumer-to-consumer marketing specialists today to see how we can get curated creators posting about your brand ASAP.

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