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The Basics of Running an Instagram Collaboration

Collaborating with like-minded influencers can really give your brand the recognition and reach it needs to generate traction to increase sales. There’s a lot of ground work to lay down before even contacting the potential collaborators, namely define the strategy, define goals, create a list of influencers, build the workflow etc. This article is the base guide you can use to run your very first collaboration campaign, test and learn.

No matter where you look on the Internet, influencers are everywhere. We all follow at least some of them—food, tech, travel, art, fashion or lifestyle influencers—mainly on Instagram. They offer cool suggestions on what to try, where to go, what to do. Personally, I mainly follow influencers in search of some creative inspiration and restaurant recommendations (yummy!). Recently, I worked with a client on building their brand through collaboration with Instagram and Vine influencers. I was pretty much managing the entire process, from identifying the potential influencers to contacting them and establishing a partnership.

I’ve found that, before starting any collaboration, you need to have a clear idea of what your brand message is, the target audience you want to reach, the social platform they can be found on and what types of people/accounts they follow. Also have a clear idea of how you want the influencers to promote and position your brand to ensure there are no misunderstandings. (Tip: Make a long list of relevant potential collaborators. A lot of them will say ‘No’ or won’t even reply!)

Think about the goals you want from utilizing influencers and what would you give in return. If you’re a relatively big brand with a big budget, you can offer paid collaborations (you’ll find that most of them already have media kits and price rates). If your brand already has a well-established following, you can offer influencers the chance to be featured on your social channels, gaining them popularity and the chance to appeal to new audiences. Basically, you need to work towards achieving a mutually beneficial agreement. When contacting a potential collaborator, the email or message you send needs to be relatively short, clear and to the point; it shouldn’t leave any room for misinterpretation. Also, it’s a good idea to follow up for you a response within a couple of days; otherwise influencers may simply put you on hold and forget about you.

Here’s a mail sample.

Hey Laura, This is Jessica from Starcru -> an app that helps people make hilarious videos! We love what you’re doing and we find you super funny. It is a pleasure for us to offer you a mutually beneficial collaboration. We have a limited opportunity for young comedians that I’d like to run past you please. Our team has selected our 10 favourite rising comedians, and of course you made the list. We would love for you to use Dubsmash app and post funny dub videos on your social network accounts twice a week and encourage your followers to check out the app. Of course, we also want to return the favor by giving you the chance to reach our over 50 million app users. You can record a short, funny monolog and make a Dubsmash video out of it. We’ll place you among our Trending Videos and give you the chance reach a bunch of new people. Also, we would love to offer you a $ [amount] incentives per [month/post/campaign]. Please let me know if you do or don’t want to be a part of this program. Thanks! We look forward to working with you! Jessica Community Growth

If your brand doesn’t have considerable following or budget, you could offer free product samples. For this scenario to succeed, you need to have a very cool product that people would be interested in trying—and also make sure that the cost of sending free samples is not too high. I would suggest (if you’re relatively small brand) you go first for the “medium size” influencers with 5-30K followers, since they might be more willing to do free collaboration if they really like your product/service. Here’s a sample:

Hello Laura, It’s an honour to connect with you! My name is Mitka and I am the social media executive for ArtWork [link to webpage], a leading Instagram printing business with thousands of loyal customers around the world. We are currently running an ambassadors program and selecting the best Instagram artists out there to collaborate with. We love your Instagram feed and believe that your expressive photography fits in perfectly with the ArtWork message. If you like the look of our products, we would be delighted to print some of your favourite images for you for free:) If you do love your prints when they arrive, we would hugely appreciate if you could give our own Instagram account [specify account] a mention on your feed and your social media channels! We would be honoured to collaborate with you! Please let us know in the next couple of days if you do or don’t want to be a part of this program. Thank you! Mitka

With some of the influencers, your brand will establish a very good connection that needs to be nurtured. Eventually, the idea is to convert these collaborations into long-term partnerships and even friendships (we all want brand ambassadors/advocates), so be there for the influencers when they need something from you. Be kind and supportive to their projects. Keep track of the influencers who you’re collaborating with, repost their content and give them recognition. Establish a conversation with them and be giving. Remember—give love to receive love!

Now think about how to take things further. As a second stage of the collaboration, you could invite them to offer to their followers an exclusive discount if they buy from your business. Another option is to collaborate on a competition or a giveaway. It would be very helpful to give each collaborators a unique discount code that they can offer their followers, which will help you track the sale and see which collaborations are the most beneficial for you. It’s very important to make sure that your product/service is a perfect fit for the needs of the Instagram Influencers and their followers. Your partnership should feel very natural and organic. The less it feels like marketing, the better! Your offering should perfectly fit their lifestyle, culture and values. I mean, come on, you can’t offer meat burgers to vegans!

Hope that sharing my experience was helpful to anyone out there in the vast universe. Cheers!