Collaborate. Especially on Instagram! Real World Results with Instagram’s new Collaborate Function

Small businesses deal with the constant pressure of limited resources, whether it be money, human resources or even just capacity to take on tasks within the team. For businesses with limited resources, it is vitally important to get as much Return On Effort (ROE) as possible, for the work that is undertaken. One key area in business that takes a lot of effort and time from the team is social media. Social media should be used to create conversations with your followers and for spreading the word about the work that you do. However, it has been increasingly difficult to reach that audience, especially on Instagram. Called ‘Organic Reach’ this is all the people you reach with each post, without spending any additional money in the form of boosts and ads.

In years gone by, we tried all sorts of tactics to increase the organic reach of Instagram posts. In the early days, social media teams used the timing of posts and post frequency to drive reach. Picture us all setting alarms on our mobile phones to remind us that now was the best time to post, and that warm dinner you were enjoying would just have to wait.

Then the role of hashtags became a key focus, with brands cramming as many hashtags as possible onto a post, aiming to reach that ever elusive audience. Following that the focus shifted towards the quality of content, with brands experimenting with formats like stop-motion clips, GIFS, video, stories, reels and more.

However, over the last few years, and despite all of these tactics, Instagram has been dialing back the organic reach on their platform. It seemed that no matter which of the above tactics you used, and even when you used all of them in unison (making it a full time job just managing your Instagram), month after month we were seeing lower reach overall on the platform. This felt a bit like déjà vu, because years before Instagram became so popular, we went through precisely the same journey on Facebook, and it ended in advertising money. If you wanted to reach an audience, even your own audience, you had to spend money to do so. Facebook is an advertising business after all, so no surprises there.

This is not good news for small- and medium-sized businesses who have limited budgets and have only just got their heads around the importance of creating great, original content. Now they have to pay for that content to be seen as well?!

While all of the above tactics are still very important to achieve increased reach, Instagram has helped us by launching a great new function that can dramatically increase your organic reach and it won’t cost you a cent! Sounds too good to be true? Well it isn’t…for now.

This exciting new functionality is called Collaborate. If you haven't come across it yet, the Collaborate function allows you to create a post on your Instagram wall and then share that with another Instagram account by inviting them to collaborate with you on it. If they accept the invitation, the post is published on both feeds, and thereby allows you to reach the audience of the collaborating account. Different from having someone post something about you then tagging you, where if you click on the post, you are directed to the new profile. When you collaborate, you share the content on both your feeds and both get the exposure to one another’s audience, no clicking required. This equates to an immediate turbo boost for your organic reach.

Shortly after the launch of this functionality, we used it for a Hussle Hub client posting a series of seven collaborate posts over a period of one month.

The results astounded us. In that month, our organic reach, which had slowly and steadily been declining over the last year, increased by almost 300%! I hope you noticed the two zeros after that three? We were amazed. Over three times the usual reach was achieved with no advertising money spent to do so.

But anyone will tell you, reach is not the ultimate goal on Instagram. Engagement is, and this fact was driven home very clearly once we analyzed the data from the campaign.

Let me explain why engagement is so important and so challenging to achieve.

If you reach 10 people with a post and only 1 person engages with the content, you are still achieving an above industry average 10% engagement level. When your post reaches 2000 people, you need 100 people to like, comment or share that post for you to achieve the same engagement level as before. Instagram still prioritizes engagement levels in their algorithms.

Therein lies the key lesson.

The collaborate function will allow you to reach a whole new audience quickly and efficiently, but without amazing content, the benefit to your Instagram is very limited.

Therefore the revitalizing two-step of Instagram Collaborate posts is to first find the right brand to partner with and second, to use stellar content that tells your story in a meaningful way to elicit a reaction from them. Think of it as an elevator pitch on Instagram - what is the one thing you want to say in two seconds of meeting someone new? Then say that in an eye-catching, persuasive way in your Collaborate posts.

In this process, we learned some practical lessons we are happy to share with you.

They are:

  • The post will appear on both accounts’ Instagram walls, so make sure you contact the brand beforehand, use an approved image and that both parties have planned to have the image appear on their walls on a particular day.

  • Get creative and collaborate with businesses outside of your usual sphere. For example, if you are a sustainable fashion brand, you can collaborate with cafes and restaurants that prioritise sustainable produce, events that highlight environmental issues and social movements that advance your sustainable fashion values. This is an opportunity to think outside of the box!

  • Select brands that compliment your brand, share the same values or who have an audience you want to speak to. There is no point in collaborating with a brand who does not align with your values or does not have an audience that you want to reach. Do some research on their profile and followers beforehand. Ask them to share their audience profile which is found under the Insights section on Instagram.

  • Our experience has shown that Collaborate posts don’t necessarily result in a significant boost in followers. However, if this is an objective for your collaboration, then we suggest using a Call To Action (CTA) such as ‘Follow us’ or ‘Join our community’. This may help to increase your followers, which still uses the ‘free’ Collaborate functionality.

Overall, we believe that ultimately the Collaborate function will be monetised at some point, however, until such time, it is providing small businesses a great opportunity to reach a new audience, to test new content formats and to drive engagement levels with customers. If we consider the effort it takes to effectively manage social media for a small business, we believe that this new functionality will definitely provide you with positive ROE!

Instagram collaborate function allows you to reach more people free of charge.