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The Benefits – and the Risk – of Strategic Partners on Social Media

Published: February 7, 2013

Author: Molly Shotwell

Today’s post is by Melissa Addison of Rimm-Kaufmann Group.
strategic partnershipSo, you’ve got social nailed. You’re interacting with users, posting interactive content, and building a strong social community. After all, you know that to be successful on social media you need to be social. But are you being social with other brands?
A strategic partnership is a relationship between two brands that makes sense. While some off-the-wall combinations can work, you will benefit more from relationships that have something in common. The best strategic partnerships share similar or complementary products or services – or share the same (or very similar) target audience on one or more platforms.
Developing strategic partners on social media can help improve your social presence in a variety of ways, but many marketers either overlook building relationships with brands or focus on the risks over the benefits. The following focuses on a few ways you can create value from building relationships with other brands on social media. I’ll also go over the big risk that keeps marketers from building those relationships.
Benefit #1: More Content
That’s right, the more strategic partnerships, the more content that you can use. One of the hardest things about marketing on social media is developing interesting, engaging, relevant content to help generate activity. It takes a lot of time, a good understanding of your audience, and a lot of patience. By utilizing partnerships with good brands on social, you can share co-branded content across accounts. This can help bring a fresh voice and perspective to the content you normally post.
disney wheel of fortune co-branding
The most common form of co-branded content or activity on social is co-branded contests. Running a contest with a strategic partner can increase value for brands with limited budget or limited organic reach on social media. It also opens the door to co-branded promotional content, which can be shared.
Just be sure any content generated by strategic partners that you choose to post has your target audience in mind.
Benefit #2: Brand Awareness/Community Building
This benefit comes more as an effect of utilizing co-branded content. By sharing co-branded content or running a co-branded contest, the social community of your strategic partner is now exposed to your brand. If your products are complementary or you share the same target audience, there is a good chance that a part of their community may be interested in becoming part of your community. This can help drive new fans or followers and on social media and start a ripple effect. Once you gain one new community member, their friends on social media can now see the action they take with your brand.
Benefit #3: Reaching the Unreachable
Many brands have an accessible target audience on social media and can easily build a social community of interested customers. When your key target audience does not widely use social media, it is key to build strategic partnerships. While this benefit is more of a niche use of these relationships, it may be the most interesting use of partnerships I have seen on social media.

facebook brand partnership
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The key here is to really understand your audience. By understanding what brands or organizations have a relationship (online or offline) with the users you are targeting, you can build strategic partnerships with those brands or organizations to help gain brand awareness. The idea is to utilize social/online strategic relationships to have branded messages delivered by word of mouth (the original social network) or online methods outside of social to users who otherwise would not see your message.
Two important things to note here is that your product or service must be extremely relevant to your strategic partner and the audience you are trying to reach. You must also offer a high-value proposition that will incentivize users to share your brand or message through a different channel.
Key Risk: Bad Brand Associations
The largest risk of developing these relationships is being brought down by association. Different brands have different personalities, ethics, and goals. Many marketers are scared because entering into a partnership means associating their brand name with content produced by another brand. What if that content doesn’t meet our ethics standards? What if that content doesn’t meet our brand personality or style? What if that content offends our customers?
While there are circumstances where brands may be purposefully hiding activity, the majority of these questions can be answered by some good, old-fashioned vetting. Keep an eye on the potential partner’s social profiles. Keep record of how users interact with the brand. What type of tone is evident in the content they produce? Do you see anything fishy?
If you are concerned, move slowly. Contact someone via social media and email back and forth about some of the guidelines for social media including brand style guides, and have them define their brand. Talk to them over the phone or meet them in person if concerns continue. If you really know who your strategic partner is, the chances of being surprised by accidental negative associations are greatly reduced.
Although there are potential risks, moving slowly and putting in the effort to build good, solid strategic partnerships on social media can benefit a brand in a big way. Be creative! Keep your audience in mind and utilize relationships to meet whatever goals your brand may be striving for. Remember, the key to being successful on social media is to be social on social media.
melissa addison rkg– Melissa Addison is a Social Advertising Analyst at The Rimm-Kaufman Group (RKG). She has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Virginia in Commerce with specialties in Marketing and International Business.

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