A while back I was in a joint organization known as the Social Commerce Institute. Unfortunately this organization has disbanded, but not until after we had a good 12-15 month run of presentations, networking and great ideas shared. I would love to reorganize something like this, but do not currently have the time or wherewithal to do so. There was a lot that I took from this group, but the most important thing would have to be the importance of social collaboration.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” ―Helen Keller

What is Social Collaboration?

Social Collaboration in business is the ability to work within the online social media world with various other brands that can be complementary in some way. Reaching out to brands that are in different verticals or have different fan bases than you can be a win win for each brand. This allows you each to leverage your social following by collaborating on content, contests, events and information shared. You are able to partner up in the social space to help each other grow.

Social Collaboration is not a new concept. This has been around for ages. We have always needed each other in society to be able to survive. One would grow the wheat, one would milk the cows and another would gather the eggs. They then would come together to provide their products to potential customers throughout their community. They would refer one another to their respective social networks. Now we are able to do this online with hundreds and thousands and even millions of connections.

There is innevitably going to be some cross over amongst your followers, but it won’t be a detriment in any way. You are both going to gain great things through a collaboration effort.

What are the benefits of Social Collaboration?

“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” —Napoleon Hill

First, and foremost, you can reach a larger audience for a very small cost. Since taking part in the Social Commerce Institute we at Altra have shared collaboration ideas with some great companies such as Goal Zero, Blendtec and ProBar from the Institute, but we have also taken this idea to a larger framework with a vast variety of brands throughout the running and outdoor sphere. It has been a very productive venture for us.

Second, you can grow share and aquire leads together. We work to utilize lead generation through gathering email addresses when doing Social Collaboration. This helps us to each grow our email databases of potential customers. By so doing we can specifically target and market to them on special products and promotions.

Going back to the first of very little cost we find the ability to garner followers and fans without paying too much to the respective social networks. We all knew that they each would have to discover some type of revenue model within their platforms so now we all have to pay to play. Or at least it would seem that way. There are still benefits to paying to advertise, but through Social Collaboration you are able to increase your fanbase without having to spend large amounts in advertising dollars. You can do this by just a few giveaway products and then leveraging the other collaborators fanbases.

How Can You Find Brands to Collaborate With?

The answer to this is going to vary depeding on your market and/or product. In the outdoor and running world we meet a variety of brands at trade shows. This affords us the opportunity to meet, talk and start the collaboration process. I would recommend going online to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and searching out key brands or businesses in your industry. Once you have created a list then look at the ones that you can benefit, but also that would be able to benefit from you. Create a list of 3-5 companies and then see if you can find the right person to talk to on their website or even through LinkedIn. Make a connection with a detailed description of what you are looking to accomplish.

Once you have made the connection you can then collaborate and fine tune your contest, content or strategy. Then take it into action. You will find that you will both benefit greatly from this relationship.

What Items Can You Collaborate On?

At Altra we have done a number of contest pack giveaways that allow a fan to sign up by liking both (or multiple) brand pages then entering an email address to win 1 of 3-4 prize packs containing giveaway items from each brand involved. This has been the most effective. A true win win for all of the brands that are involved in the process.

Another item is to find a company that creates great content that can be beneficial to your customer. Then invite them to write as a guest blogger on your site. In exchange link back to their site and possibly write content for them as well.

One final idea is to collaborate on events, festivals or summits to reward key customers or get your brands out there in other cities. Work together to provide product to test or an event that your customer would want to get involved in. I have seen this a lot in the hiking and climbing world for clean up days on the trail or crag. Also, fishing brands tend to do this for a river cleanup project. This form of giving back gets your customer out serving the community and creates a greater loyalty to your brand. I would recommend that each brand look at providing some type of little swag item to create a goody bag of sorts.

Work to collaborate with brands and businesses that think and work like you do. This will serve well for each of you as you work to grow your brands. Go foward and continue to succeed in business!