Our Thinking

Leveraging External Stakeholders for Social Media Campaigns

No matter which profession your association serves, chances are that you’ve invested in targeted campaigns. Once you’ve created and run your campaign, the analysis begins. The question that post-campaign evaluations answer is, was the campaign a success? Success is often measured in quantitative ways, such as number of social media impressions, likes, comments and shares. 

But this approach leaves little space to ask the questions that really matter:

  • How could the campaign have done better?

  • Should we have invested somewhere completely different?

To answer these questions, there is one group that is often overlooked: external partners. Yes, this could be members and volunteers. But it can also include suppliers, media, and any other stakeholders outside of the association. 

Social media is an essential part of any campaign. And with a little help from you, your external stakeholders can effectively support and amplify your campaign, exposing new audiences to your association’s messaging. Read on to learn how you set your association up for social media campaign success by engaging stakeholders you may have taken for granted. 

Helping Stakeholders Help You

Think about your association’s external stakeholders. Are you totally up to date on their current activities and campaigns? If one of them approached you to partner on a social media campaign, what support could you offer? And most importantly – what information would you need from them to proceed?

It’s important to remember that external partners may be too busy with their own problems to be concerned with yours. And if you assume that they have the social media savvy to effectively support your campaign, you may be in for a shock. Their social media knowledge is likely focused on achieving their goals – not yours.

When engaging external partners, education is the key. You can’t expect them to put their own work aside to research what your association is up to these days and how you are serving your members. Like any partnership, it’s a two-way street. You must also make it clear to external partners what’s in it for them, how they can best participate, and what resources are needed on their end. 

Social media campaigns are certainly not the only way that stakeholders can effectively collaborate. However, these types of partnerships are very cost-effective, and can have big impacts on both organizations including:

  • Exposure to new audiences

  • Demonstration of industry reach and status via partnerships

  • Increase in sales for external partners

  • Increase in membership numbers for associations

As you build and strengthen relationships with your external partners, they will become more comfortable with your organization. Ultimately, this means fostering a group of external stakeholders that will become ever-stronger advocates and ambassadors for your association.

3 Steps for Social Media Campaigns with External Stakeholders

Now that you understand the benefits – where do you start? 

#1: Confirm Your Campaign Focus: The focus of the campaign will dictate which partners are most suitable. Have a brainstorming session with your team to create a shortlist of potential campaigns for your association, including your expected outcomes and how you will measure success. Keep things fairly flexible at this point, to ensure there is room for new ideas that may emerge from your partners. 

#2: Design a Potential Partner List: Once you have a few campaign ideas in mind, it’s time to turn your attention to which partners could best support them. Start by listing which partners are the best fit according to the campaign focus. If your campaign is about saving money on professional services, consider engaging your existing sponsors and tradeshow exhibitors who offers these services. Next, think about which partners would be a good strategic choice. An organization that has a strong social media following and knows how to leverage it may be a valuable partner. Finally, consider which partners are already interested and invested in working with you. Remember that email you got a few months ago from a stakeholder, wondering how you could partner? Maybe you didn’t have any suggestions at the time. But a new campaign partnership could reignite that relationship and take it in exciting new directions that will benefit both organizations. 

#3: List Potential Partner Benefits: Even established partners will likely have one question on their minds when assessing your partnership ask: what’s in it for us? Think about this question ahead of time, so you can be ready when they ask (and they will). One of the great advantages of partnering on social media campaigns, is that it’s more about exposure than cash. Who can your campaign expose your partner to, and how could it help them? Take a close look at the vision and mission statements, as well as their current activities. Are there any campaigns of theirs that you could support? Are there any synergies between your two organizations’ work that you could leverage for mutual benefit?

3 Social Media Campaign Partnership Ideas

Social media campaigns are quite diverse. How they look depends on what platforms you use, and what content types you include. In partnership conversations, don’t be afraid to get creative! The beauty of social media is that you have many tools at your disposal. The question is, how will you use them together?

#1: Social Media Takeover: Often seen on platforms such as Instagram, social media takeovers are a great way to introduce a new stakeholder, perspective, product, or service to your members. In this option, someone from your partner organization would ‘takeover’ your association’s Instagram account for a week or so, posting their content on your feed, that has been pre-approved by you. Try trading takeovers to reap the full benefits of this approach!

#2: Short Videos: These can be part of social media takeovers but can be used very effectively on a stand-alone basis. If your partner is TikTok savvy that helps, but you can also help build their capacity by sharing your own social media content marketing knowledge. Maybe they need help creating a short, concise video script that aligns with your campaign. Or maybe they need to learn how to integrate subtitles and other visuals into their videos using post-production techniques. A key part of being a great partner is sharing skills and knowledge. Although providing social media training to a partner may seem counter-intuitive, guess what? They will remember and appreciate how you helped build their own capacity. And when it comes time for them to seek out campaign partners, providing that level of support could put your association at the top of their partnership list. 

#3: Create a Social Media Toolkit: Sometimes, a social media partnership simply involves one organization sharing the existing content of another organization. But it’s not as simple as just providing your partner with content. Once you have confirmed that your partner is interested in amplifying your campaign, the next step is to provide them with the social media content that you have designed. Once your social media team has designed all the post visuals and captions, put them into a folder that your partner can access. Even better, ask them whether they want their logo on the campaign material, and discuss which hashtags could make the most impact. One key step that many organizations miss, is setting up the campaign post timing with their partner. Remember, your partner has their own social media calendar. A partnership with you means making space for your content. Make sure to give your partner plenty of lead time to make room in their calendar. Bonus: social media toolkits work for members too! Providing clear direction about your campaign focus, how to access social media materials and how to use them can go a long way to helping your members get your message out there.

When it comes to amplifying your message, gaining new audiences and showcasing the strength of your association’s industry relationships, social media campaign partnerships are a high-impact, cost-effective option. And remember, the journey is the destination. The very process of co-creating or collaborating on a campaign will bring you and your partner closer together, strengthening existing bonds, and building new and innovative ways of working together. 

Digital transformation brings all this together – and can help make you a more attractive partner. Learn more by downloading our e-book, Digital Transformation for Associations!