How to Collaborate on Instagram

At IDCO, we are huge believers in collaborations – and we want to teach you exactly how to collaborate on Instagram. So much fun in what we do comes from teaming up with other creatives, local brands or Instagrammers from around the globe. However, collaborations seem like a mystery to most people. You see “influencers” in your feed being sent hundreds of dollars worth of product just to share an image with their following. While those “sponsored posts” are a great marketing tool, you don’t have to have a huge following to successfully land a collaboration. You just need an idea, a mutual goal and a dash of extroverted courage. Below, we’ll walk you through where to find someone to collaborate with, how to reach out to them, and how to collaborate on Instagram.

We have extensive experience reaching out to brands and creatives for our IDCO workshops. All of our swag bags are compilations of small business products we love like Brite Lite TribeAplatBelong MagPoppyJACK Shop and more. We’ve also teamed up with countless brands for content collaborations on our Instagram and blog, such as: Herbivore Botanicals, Formulary 55, Minor History, McGee and Co., The Bouqs, Daniel Wellington and more! Each and every one of those collaborations followed the same formula. Defining your goal, search, engage, direct message, email follow up and agreements. Let’s begin with defining your goal.

When learning how to collaborate on Instagram, you must define your goal for the collaboration. That may be to bring in a more “lifestyle” feel to your protein bars to attract more millennial, or showcase local artists if you’re a fashion boutique to increase evening foot traffic, or to work with countryside bed and breakfasts if you work for a car share company. It doesn’t matter what the brand is, an effective collaboration can be both attainable and mutually beneficial with a little creativity and a lot of strategy. Identify the problem you’re looking to resolve, define your goal, and stick to it.

Now you can start researching potential collaborators. We start by making a list of hashtags that would associate with the perfect brand. If you’re looking for a local brand, try hashtags like #madeinATX or #madeinsanfrancisco. If you’re looking to work with a photographer in a different city, try #chicagophotographer. We also like to focus on partnering with small batch, sustainable products, so we search hashtags associated with those; #smallbatch #handpoured #shopsmall. These hashtags will be your search engine – type them in to Instagram and start looking through posts. Your eye will be quickly drawn to the posts that appeal to you and your brand.

Following the hashtag research, we start making lists of the brands, makers, photographers, we felt aligned with our brand. Then, we spend a week or so actively engaging with their Instagram accounts. Follow, like and authentically comment on their posts for those seven days. This is the most important part of the process – it creates brand trust and an organic relationship. Genuine comments are more than, “Awesome shot” or “Love this!”. Respond to the question they asked in their caption. Ask your own question about the product in the shot. If it’s a photographer, ask about their favorite times to shoot. The key is to try to strike up conversation. When you’re ready to reach out, it’s no longer a cold email – the brand recognizes your name and is more likely to respond to your request.

After a week to ten days of engaging with your dream brands, now is the time to make your move! We suggest always starting with a Direct Message on Instagram. It’s a friendlier environment to send an initial message than directly to an inbox. It’s also a key strategy we use to ensure they can quickly click over to our profile to get a better understanding of our brand and our mission. Always begin your message with a genuine compliment. What do you love about their brand? Why are you drawn to it? Then explain how your brand’s align in a short sentence. Are you both eco-conscious? Do you have overlapping clientele? Finish with saying you have a potential collab opportunity you’d love to email them about and ask for the best email to reach them. Below, you’ll find a rough template to work from:

“Hey (brand name)! I’ve recently discovered your brand and have absolutely fallen in love with the mission behind your products. Your (specific product or service) is so in line with what we do. I have a fun idea for a collaboration I’d love to email you about. What email address is best for me to send the details to? Can’t wait to chat more!”

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back right away (or ever) – that’s why you made a list of target accounts! Send a few messages at a time, but make sure to always customize them with genuine compliments, true to their brand. Authenticity is key. It’s obvious when inquiries are not authentic, and brands can see right through that. Keep engaging with their accounts – they may not feel they are a fit today, but could in a few months.

Finally, when you’ve been given an email to reach out to, or dug around on their website to find a contact email, send a full collaboration proposal. Remind them why you’re reaching out – that you’re following up from Instagram with more details. Lay out what collaboration idea you had. Explain how your following align (this is a great place to include Instagram statistics. I like using Iconosquare to pull demographics of my followers). Offer a way to showcase them beyond the collaboration – maybe that’s in a newsletter, a blog post series. Maybe you offer to exchange services. The bottom line here is the collaboration MUST BE equally beneficial and expectations for each party are clear before you begin.

Our biggest piece of advice is to be genuine. Find partnerships that are true to your brand’s missionvalues and mood board. Be generous with your time and offer to help in any way you can. Show continued partnership by referring to your collaborators in your posts long beyond your partnership ends. Lastly – support their business! Purchase a product for a gift (or yourself) and show them how much you love what they’re doing.

Now – to answer a few questions you guys left on our Instagram account about how to collaborate on Instagram:

AudreyAutry asks as a photographer how to collaborate on Instagram: 

“What are your thoughts in selecting a collab with brands that reach out to you? And how do you “turn them down” politely if needed?”

Such a great question, Audrey! I imagine as a photographer, you often get reached out to by brands with different styles and feels. We suggest dialing down on your Mood Board. Does their product/service fit on that mood board? If you couldn’t add their product or service to your mood board today, it’s probably not a fit. 

When it’s not a fit and you need to politely pass, always respond politely and gratefully. We recommend something along the lines of, “Thank you so much for reaching out – it’s such an honor to be considered for your project. My mission is to always serve my clients/followers in the most genuine capacity to my brand, and I’m not sure we are a fit to partner right now. I so appreciate the opportunity and look forward to following along with your successes!”

PerfectlyPeaced asks:

“Is it okay to collaborate with different target audiences… for example, I think my style works well with both “farmhouse decor” and “eclectic decor”.

Yes! Love this question. We think it’s absolutely brilliant to collaborate with different target audiences if they’re both in line with your brand. A great way to do this is maybe to collaborate with interior design bloggers in each of those markets. Send them a sample product in exchange for a blog post and three Instagram posts. That way, you’re targeting their following, without mixing up your own brand’s target message. This is a perfect example of how to collaborate on Instagram.

If you’re looking to represent those categories in your own feed, keep some coloring consistencies. Stick with white backgrounds, where the accessories represent the farmhouse or eclectic theme. That way, your feed is consistently bright and airy. Just make sure to switch up your hashtags accordingly on those posts #bohostyle or #farmhousestyle when appropriate.

Do you guys have any other questions about how to collaborate on Instagram? Leave them below and I’ll get them answered on Instagram stories!

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