Why are partnerships important in branded social media?
While partnerships have always been a crucial strategic tool for businesses looking to expand their capabilities, channels and distribution, they are particularly effective in branded social media and communities, where these social channels have the power to transform and reinforce your brand identity and transform how your audience experiences your brand. Partnerships with brands and social media influencers have enabled intense growth for many companies recently, and the obvious benefits of the trend are starting to get attention.
Grow Your Community
Connectt’s owned and operated social network, Campus Society, serves the world’s university students, providing them with a meaningful and innovative way to connect and collaborate. When considering potential partners, we knew we had to pay close attention to a student’s journey – university is an incredibly formative time, and we wanted to provide a platform which is not only relevant to that, but sits squarely as part of a user’s experience.
As such, in the UK, we chose to partner with UCAS, the body which admits most of the UK’s undergraduate university students. UCAS has built a community on our platform to connect with students beyond their application and put their ear to the student body. The Campus Society community has grown considerably as a result and has become the obvious next step for UK university students after their application.
Become a Go-To Destination
Beauty influencers such as Zoella, Tati Westbrook and Nikki Tutorials have, collectively, tens of billions of views, tending to build their audience through sensational and innovative storytelling, expert advice and snappy video cuts that make for easy watching. While each has their own range of products (usually produced in collaboration with an established brand), e.g. Zoella’s Superdrug collection or Tati Westbrook’s Halo Beauty range of vitamins, they are not afraid to review and provide a space to talk about other products, and particularly those which are complementary.
As such, they position themselves as the go-to place for everything beauty – followers flock to the comment sections to garner advice and product recommendations, while the Youtubers themselves are heralded as experts who are not only part of the conversation but lead it. Brands should take notice in their own branded social networks and communities – being unafraid of featuring products other than their own, teaming up with influencers who sit at the heart of the market and taking part in wider discussions happening in their industry will ultimately strengthen their stance.
Take Part in the Customer’s Product Discovery Journey
Social networks and communities are many customer’s first port of call when looking for advice or inspiration for a purchase, making branded social a perfect match for retailers. This is particularly in markets such as travel, home improvement and beauty, where customers spend a long time engaging in product discovery before purchase. Branded social offers a uniquely powerful way to become part of your customer’s product discovery and learn about their future purchase intent to inform content, merchandising and marketing efforts.
Lowe’s, the US home improvement store, saw an opportunity to work with Pinterest to take part in their customer's product discovery. Pinterest’s network of boards and pinnable images let users easily create mood boards for individual rooms and browse other user’s boards for inspiration. As Pinterest’s US Head of Partnerships notes, “The visual nature of what Pinterest is, “sometimes I can’t articulate what I want, I know it when I see it”, and those who are inspired by Lowe’s boards can purchase instantly.
Content is a crucial pillar of branded social, setting the tone, guiding discussion and promoting growth through its virality. Collaborating on content with other brands can breathe vibrancy into your communications while retaining authenticity. A good example of this is Vice and Intel’s decision to collaborate on The Creators Project – leveraging Intel’s expertise and reputation in technology with Vice’s expertise in editorial curation and attracting Gen Z audiences.
The Project explores creative expression through the lens of technology; for example, producing documentaries on electronically-inclined music artists such as Daft Punk, Robyn and Jamie XX, and artists such as Siebren Versteeg, who produces abstract art with computer code as his principal medium. This empowered Vice to produce editorials on technology, while bringing Intel into the cultural conversation on technology.
Champion Social Good
Social networks and communities are incredibly influential platforms which have the capability to not simply demonstrate their commitment to good, but to effect real change by raising the profile of social issues and initiating conversation. Media-giant Oath partnered with Getty Images and the National Disability Leadership to create the The Disability Collection, a first-of-a-kind library of stock photos to transform perceptions of disability, which launched on Global Accessibility Awareness Day in May 2018.
People with disabilities are significantly underrepresented in the media – while people with disabilities constitute 20% of the population, only 2% are featured in the media and rarely are included authentically. The campaign ran extensively on social media and brought in many well-known disability leaders and influencers to elevate the initiative and raise the issue. The campaign reached an audience of over 120 million, while the image collection now has over 1,000 assets – a growing library that will effect a more inclusive media industry for years to come.
It’s worth noting that these are only a few examples of how partnerships can add value to your branded social and community platform. Ultimately, their power is in their flexibility, and at the other side of the same coin, is that there really is no one-size-fits-all approach. Good partnerships require an in-depth understanding of each other’s business and breakthrough moments rarely happen when you only stay in your lane. So continue to talk to prospective partners, current clients and contacts. Get a feel for their challenges, their capabilities and let them know yours. Not only will these relationships inspire great collaboration ideas, but also be the bedrock to see them through to success.