Alliances and Social Media – Sharing Your Audience

Alliances and Social Media – Sharing Your Audience


Facebook announced that it’s going to start allowing joint ownership of photo albums all across the website. 



Here’s what joint ownership of photo albums entails:

  • Multiple parties (up to 50) can add photos (up to 200 each) to a Facebook photo album
  • The album still has one owner, but that owner can add contributors
  • There are still privacy controls that the owner can manage in terms of who can see the album

No matter which way you look at it, this is a great step forward for social media in terms of collaboration. But getting privacy right matters.

Most of us now have some things that we share widely and other things that we share only with those who are nearest and dearest to us.

New innovations like this (and shared folders on Dropbox or Google Drive) should have us wondering: Under which circumstances should your organization collaborate with other organizations? Under what circumstances does a shared photo album make sense?

And from our point of view, there are four ways for most businesses to collaborate on social media–the axes are Permanent vs. Temporary and Formal vs. Informal (see the lead image).

1. Tight Alignment, Formal

e.g. MTV and VH1

In most cases, if you have a permanent and formal arrangement with another organization, you are being managed together de facto. While your brands are independent, you are yoked together under a formal agreement that lawyers drafted. In this case, collaboration is more a requirement than an option, and someone at the corporate level is probably making the decisions. Not much to think about here.

Example: Jointly-owned companies band together for permanent awareness campaign (e.g., Disney brands for Susan G. Komen). Social media is managed centrally and includes contributions from each brand (in strict proportion).

2. Loose Alignment, Formal.

e.g. Campaign to rezone downtown Omaha

In this case, you are working formally with other organizations on a project that has a beginning, middle and end. Maybe it’s a charitable campaign, or maybe it’s a political movement. But in either case, it’s where you and your compatriots are operating under an umbrella bigger than yourselves. An overarching title (e.g., Downtown Business Association) will probably be the brand that people interact with. It may be clear that your brand is a component member, but it’s also clear that this collaboration is not forever.

This is still, however, an opportunity to spread your organization’s reach—if 10 organizations band together and are public about who their members are, that can increase brand awareness for all 10 organizations. Particularly, fans of your organization will be exposed to your comrades in the campaign and vice versa. This is a great opportunity for the smallest organization in the group and a great way to get seen in the combined spotlight from other organizations.

Example: Organization members rotate responsibility for updating social media (I do Mondays, you do Tuesdays). There are opportunities for each organization to blow their own horn on the shared account.

3. Tight Alignment, Informal.

e.g. A long-time referral agreement between a law firm and a PR agency

This kind of arrangement takes some finesse. It’s perfectly OK to retweet each other, plug each other on social media and recommend each other on LinkedIn. But if the relationship becomes too obvious, each brand will lose credibility. When I read your blog, I will forgive the occasional sales pitch from you as long as I get 10 useful posts in exchange for the pitch. And it doesn’t matter if the pitch is for you or for someone else—just don’t abuse my attention.

Example: Regular RTs or guest posts from professional service firms who serve the same vertical. There are probably significant overlaps between the existing client bases and existing subscribers.

4. Loose Alignment, Informal.

e.g. Sharing a hall at a trade show

This is a fun opportunity. You are thrown together with a few organizations, and you find you have a temporary shared interest. This happens a lot at conferences, where everyone is overstimulated and tired and gets emotional. You can put together a very short-term group and share your photos together. A college reunion would be the logical extreme—people know who each other are, but for the first time, they are getting to “like” each other.

Example: Nebraskans at SXSW. There could be the opportunity to share a photo album or temporary Twitter feed. The more unrelated the organizations are, the bigger the opportunity to leverage each other’s audiences. In these cases, there is little pre-existing overlap.

The answer:

Any time that you can leverage another organization’s audience, it’s worth considering. Have they heard your message? Would they be interested in your message?

It’s a useful exercise to consider whose social media audience you would like to tap into. And how can you create a win-win collaboration? Weigh the benefits and the downsides, and think about where you fall in the matrix we’ve set up here.

New software features offer us all new opportunities, and it’s great to use them where appropriate. New features like these remind us all that a little bit of collaboration (usually) never hurt anybody.

Reprinted by permission.

About the author: Adrian Blake

Adrian began his career in the television industry, leading the international growth of Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central. Adrian has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and an A.B. from Harvard.

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