It can be hard for brands to find new followers on social media without paying for advertising – especially for new accounts that are starting from scratch. On one hand you want to build a community naturally, but on the other you need to see results and get some followers on board.
Building a community, the old-fashioned way by following other users and engaging with their posts is a slow process because most people will just ignore an approach from a business account on social media. Very few will follow you back or engage with your content.
Other brands are different. They are in the same position as you, business owners, marketing executives or community managers who are looking for reciprocal follows, likes, comments and shares. It makes sense then to prioritize your relationships with other brands to kick-start your follower numbers and create some buzz around your brand.
This buzz is important because it is used to decide where your content appears in social media feeds (and rankings on search engines). The position of your content is governed by algorithms that give priority to accounts that are active. Conversations, comments, mentions, replies and shares mean you are relevant, and if other relevant accounts are interacting with your content, it can also count in your favor.
In some way, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn all rank content from business accounts in their users’ feeds based on this – so it makes sense to start getting friendly with other brands.
Before you start hitting up Coca-Cola, National Geographic and Nike though, take a moment to think about how likely they are to respond. If you work for Microsoft your chances are quite good, but if you are a small company just starting out or a less well-known brand, it’s better to aim a bit lower. Start by trying to connect with brands that are on a similar level to your company. This will improve your chances of developing a beneficial relationship and mean that you aren’t wasting your time. Follow and engage with the posts of brands who share your values. They are very likely to do the same.
You can let this develop in a natural way by engaging with another brand’s content, or you can make a more formal approach by direct messaging the brand and agreeing to like, comment and share each other’s posts.
You can then work towards directly posting about each other’s products, content and promotions if it’s something that your audiences will both be interested in. You should be careful to limit these kinds of posts and think carefully about whether your followers will appreciate the content.
Humour is a great way to interact with other brands, especially on Twitter where everyone else is watching. Brands often develop running jokes that develop a following of their own. Calling out other brands is also common, but if you are doing this then you should be prepared for a fight. It’s a high stakes game to criticise another brand on Twitter as you are likely to get a response of some kind.
Wendy’s is well-known for it’s humorous put downs – or “roasts” – of twitter users posting about fast food. Wendy’s also takes on McDonalds and Burger King, which Wendy’s fans love to get involved in by making more jokes about their competitors.
After McDonald’s Twitter account accidentally posted this dummy text in a Black Friday tweet:
Wendy’s was quick to make a joke of the blunder and add a further dig about McDonald’s ice cream machines always being broken:
Wendy’s also delivers straight criticism of McDonald’s, calling them out about their use of frozen beef and subtly promoting their own commitment to fresh beef without directly mentioning it:
On Instagram, things are a bit more friendly. It’s common for brands to build a relationship by liking and commenting on each other’s posts. Sadly, it’s also common for bots to be used by companies to automatically comment on posts in a similar way. To avoid looking like a bot and to give yourself a better chance of developing a real relationship, make genuine comments about the post that only a person could write. Saying “nice pic” or leaving a thumbs up emoji is the kind of post a bot would make.
Sether’s listening tools can be used to find out which brands are posting about content that is important to your brand. For instance, if you manufacture athletic clothing, you can create an alert on the Sether platform so that every time sports or training are mentioned, you get a notification. You can link all your social media accounts to the Sether platform and then easily switch between platforms to comment on and interact with posts. Try to be funny, informative or supportive and never attempt to promote your products!
The next step is co-marketing, where brands join forces to create marketing campaigns and share in the profits generated or produce content together to save on production costs and tap into each other’s audiences. A great example of this is the relationship between Red Bull and GoPro.
The two companies produce very similar extreme sports content, Red Bull sponsored athletes often appear in GoPro’s video content and much of Red Bull’s content is shot using GoPro equipment. Red Bull’s Stratos project, a parachute jump from the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere is an early example of the brands working together. GoPro cameras were used on the jump and the edited video posted on GoPro’s Facebook page helped their YouTube video get over 17 million views.
The two companies have now formed an exclusive global partnership, where Red Bull receives shares in the GoPro company and GoPro is the exclusive provider of point-of-view imaging technology. What started as a major overlap in content, ended up being a full scale business partnership, but if social media didn’t exist, it’s unlikely the partnership would have happened.
Of course, a co-branding partnership doesn’t have to be this deep, but it’s a great example of how these relationships can develop into something very big. With this in mind, you should start to think about what type of companies your brand would benefit from forming a relationship with.
Is there anther brand out there with products that work well with your products? There are obvious choices for some brands: coffee machine makers can work with coffee brands; washing powder brands with washing machine manufacturers; clothing companies with shoemakers; restaurants with delivery platforms. But there are also less obvious partnerships: ice cream brands teaming up with movie streaming services; insurance companies with gyms; charities with airlines; and energy companies with the creative arts. Uber and Spotify teaming up to allow Uber users to listen to their own playlists during their Uber rides, Ford joining forces with Tinder to allow Tinder users to go on a blind date in a Ford Mustang, or Ikea working with Adidas to promote home fitness are great examples of unexpected brands working together. It’s more about shared values and accessing each other’s audiences. Uber can appeal to Spotify users by offering personalisation features that other ride hailing apps do not offer, Ford can show of it’s top of the range muscle car to image conscious tinder users and Ikea can draw on the expert advice of adidas and bring its loyal fans to a store that they might not otherwise visit. With brand partnerships, the sky is the limit.
Think about your supply chain, or how your customers use your products. Consider your values and objectives and look for businesses that think like you do. Two seemingly independent companies could team up on a mutually beneficial project. Brands that are unrelated and share a common audience, or brands that can help each other tap into completely new audiences.
Now it’s time to get friendly with other brands!