What is Collaborating on Instagram? (+ Helpful Tips in 2021)

In this guide, we’ll be discussing Instagram collaborations. Both on collaborating with users and collaborating with brands.

After reading this guide, you should understand:

Let’s dive in.

instagram collaboration

What Does Collab Mean?

A “collab” is short for collaboration. It is the action of working with a user, a business, or a brand to produce or create something.

Think of a collaboration as a cooperation between two “parties.”

Collaborations can lead to new innovations, ways to think creatively, new processes, growth, and new relationships.

instagram collaboration

What is an Instagram Collaboration?

When someone collabs with a user, company, or a brand on Instagram, it means that they are working together in a mutually beneficial business relationship.

Instagram collaborations are growing and influencer marketing is expected to grow to be worth $13.8 billion in 2021 (Influencer Marketing Hub).

It is important to note that in collaborations, the “mutually beneficial” part is very important.

There needs to be benefits for both parties in the collaboration or else it isn’t really a collaboration and more of an activity of “taking.”

An example of an Instagram collaboration could be between a social media model and a clothing company.

The social media model could collaborate with the clothing company in order to promote their new line of products.

The collaboration would be the social media model posting photos of herself wearing the new clothing products.

The benefit for the social media model would either be financial or compensatory in the sense of free clothing.

The benefit for the clothing company would be using the social media models following to reach a larger audience and to help them gain brand awareness for their clothing products.

It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

what is instagram collaboration

Prerequisites to Collaborating

You might be thinking, that sounds awesome, I could get free clothes and then just post them on Instagram? Easy gig!

Well, there are some prerequisites in order to collaborate with users, brand, and companies.

Often, you will need a rather large social media following that is also engaged with your content.

Before going out and buying followers (which you should never do), you need to read that last half — the users need to be engaged with your content.

Nowadays, there are many platforms such as Humanz, Entribe, CreatorIQ, Upfluence, etc.

Where you can find people, brands, and companies to collaborate with. Within these platforms, they have metrics on your account so you can see how many followers you have and how engaged they are.

So my point — long gone are the days of just having a large social following, they need to be engaged now, especially now that the competition is higher.

instagram like

How to Collaborate on Instagram

Now that we’ve covered what collabing is and what collaborating on Instagram is, let’s dive into how to collaborate on Instagram with some tips.

Tips for Collaborating on Instagram

1. Develop a Brand

The first tip when it comes to collaborating on Instagram, is to first ensure you have a brand.

As mentioned in our Marketing Framework Guide, a brand is one component within the marketing matrix along with price, promotion, distribution, product.

And as mentioned in our Branding Guide, a brand is made up of two components:
– Company Image
– Positioning

Company image is the perception of your business or you as an individual in the minds of your target audience.

Your positioning involves the identifying of a target audience with an unfilled need and positioning your product or service to fulfill their need.

With all that being said, you need to work out what you want your brand to be.

Questions to ask yourself include

  • What perception do I want my target audience to have either about me or my business? Do I want to come off with the perception that I am a fitness expert? A dropshipping expert? A sustainability practitioner? A model? Etc.
  • What product or service do I want to provide my target audience? Is there currently an unfilled need in the marketplace? Will my product or service fill that need?

After asking yourself these questions and hashing out some ideas, it’s time to further develop your ideal target audience.

2. Figure Out Target Audience

The second tip to begin collaborating on Instagram is to develop your target audience.

After figuring out a rough idea of what you want your brand to be (it can change that’s why I mentioned ‘rough idea’) it’s time to hone in on your target audience.

For example, if you are starting a photography Instagram page, then your target audience will most likely be other photographers, models, and perhaps makeup artists.

If you are starting a woman’s fitness Instagram page, then your target audience will most likely be women who are looking to get in shape. BUT, you can even get further than that.

For example, with that fitness Instagram page, do you want to target Gen Z? Is this a fitness page tailored to at home workouts? Gym workouts? Powerlifting routines? Yoga workouts? Etc.

Keep digging deeper until you find a niche and target audience that resonates with you.

Finding out your target audience is an important tip because if you don’t know who your target audience is, then it will be hard to collaborate with others, whether it is another user or a brand.

For example, if you have a woman’s fitness Instagram page, and you don’t know that your biggest target audience is women ages 18 – 34, and you collaborate with a men’s sportswear brand, you may not be so successful.

target audience

3. Figure Out Mission or Goal

The third tip for collaborating on Instagram is to figure out your mission or goal.

What is your end game for Instagram and collaborations?

Why do you want to collaborate in the first place?

Is it for money? Status? Fame? Brand awareness?

Well, I think we’d all be lying if some part of it wasn’t for money, so let’s just say to what degree?

Do you want to be filthy ‘rich’ in the financial sense? Do you just want to make a little side cash? Do you want Instagram to be your full-time job?

You need to ask yourself what your end goal is this way you know what direction to go in terms of who you want to collaborate with.

It’s hard to know what path to go down if you don’t even know where you want to end up.

4. Research Brands, Users, or Companies

After brainstorming what you want your brand to be, who your ideal target audience is, and what your mission or goal to be, it’s time to research.

The fourth tip is to research brands, users, or companies.

The first three tips led us up to this moment.

Now it’s like a puzzle, and the brands, users, or companies will be like puzzle pieces fitting into our overall puzzle.

As mentioned, nowadays, there are many platforms such as Entribe, CreatorIQ, Upfluence, etc. that you can use to find brands/companies and for brands/companies to find influencers.

If there are specific brands or users you want to work with, you can also reach out to them individually or see if they are an individual influencer program.

If it’s a specific user you want to work with, if you land on their profile, they may have an email for you to contact them at.

If it’s a specific brand/company, then check out their website as they may have an influencer program where you can just apply. If not, you can email their marketing team. Look for the digital marketing manager if possible either through LinkedIn or their about page.

research brands

5. Reach Out to Them

The 5th tip is to actually reach out to them.

Shoot your shot!

Let it be known that before reaching out, however, that you will need to have a good size following first before you should even think about collaborating with brands. The recommended size would be at least 10K followers with a good engagement rate.

If reaching out to other users, then they should be users of the same level of following count.

You may be nervous to reach out to these people, however, get over the fear of rejection.

Hope that they agree to a form of collaboration but expect them to say no.

Hope for the best, but expect the worst! That’s my motto.

If you are reaching out to another user, the collaboration doesn’t have to be big!

Being a photographer, I’ve often collaborated with other influencers/models in my area for photoshoots.

They would receive free photos, I would get a subject to practice on and then when we posted the photos we both exposed each other to each other’s followers!

instagram collaboration reach out

6. Execution

The 6th tip for collaborating on Instagram is the actual execution of the collaboration campaign.

After reaching out, you and the person or brand you will be collaborating with should have determined how you will be collaborating, what product/service you will be collaborating on, and for how long.

After that has been established, it’s time to execute on the collaboration.

When doing the actual collaboration, make sure to keep the lines of communication open just in case they need to message you for anything or something happens where they need to make a pivot.

And as always, present yourself in a professional manner this way you have the best opportunity that they will want to work with you again later down the line!

7. Measure Results and ROI

The 7th and final tip for collaborating on Instagram is to measure the results and ROI (return on investment) of your collaboration campaign.

If you aren’t measuring the results then how do you know if it was “successful” or not.

When measuring results, it’s important that you track key metrics such as how many people were reached, how many sales the collaboration brought if it was a brand, etc.

The more things you try to track the better, this way it can even serve as a sort of resume when you want to collaborate with more people.

Before starting the collaboration, in the reaching out phase discussed in tip #5, you’ll even want to track how many collaboration messages you send out and how many people respond.

Why do this?

Well if you realize that you are reaching out to a lot of people and brands and no one is responding, you may want to change up your outreach message.

It’s about continuous testing. There is a saying in the marketing realms to “always be testing.” Test everything.

You can only test, however, if you know the results of a certain outcome, this way you know if your test is actually improving results or not.

measure results and roi instagram collab

Instagram Collaboration Ideas and Examples

Now that we’ve covered the tips regarding instagram collaborations, let’s dive into some of the most common Instagram collaboration ideas and examples.

1. Giveaways

The first Instagram collaboration idea and example is the giveaway.

Oftentimes, in order to participate in the giveaway, you need to share the post with friends, comment on the post, and share the post on your story.

With all that being said, giveaways are great at driving a lot of social shares and engagement on the giveaway posts.

An example of a giveaway can be seen with Hydro Flask.

After reaching 200K followers, they did a follow & tag two friends giveaway.

In this giveaway, Hydro Flask wanted to celebrate this milestone. They asked fans to follow them and tag two friends in the post comments.

The post resulted in 12,500 likes and a lot of engagement with the brand. Plus, two lucky people got a Hydro Flask for free!

instagram collab following

2. Referrals/Affiliate Marketing

The second Instagram collaboration idea and example is referral/affiliate marketing.

Referrals/affiliate marketing is when you promote a certain product often at a discounted price with a special code. If users were to purchase the product using your code, you would receive a commission.

Here’s an example of an affiliate post by Mariano Di Vaio:

instagram affiliate

As you can see, it’s different from a regular #ad post because he has a discount code which would result in him getting a commission from people purchasing from Hair Bello using his code.

3. Product/Service Shoutouts

The third Instagram collaboration idea and example is a product/service shoutout.

A simple way to collaborate is through a product or service shoutout.

You can give a “shoutout” to your collaboration partner’s service or product and in return they can give you a shout out as well.

Here’s an example from Ian Harding giving a shout out to Evian Water:

collaborating on instagram

And going back to the idea of branding as discussed earlier, this is a great shout out for Ian Harding because it will align his own brand image with a good cause.

4. Takeovers

The fourth collaboration idea and example is an Instagram takeover.

This is when a different brand or influencer “takes over”’ your Instagram account for a day, similar to when a guest host “takes over” on a radio station.

In exchange you can “take over” their Instagram feed at the same time.

The benefit with takeovers is that it exposes both brands to a new audience.

An example of this is often seen with the Instagram account “Dogs of Instagram” in which they frequently allow for Instagram Story Takeovers where another dog account will take over their Instagram stories for a day:

instagram takeover

5. Joint Product Releases

The 5th Instagram collaboration idea and example is a joint product release.

This collaboration idea is a little more complex and is most suitable for a business with another business in which they have a product.

An example of this can be seen when HP and Elle collaborated on a joint product release.

The image is HP promoting Elle’s branded printer:

instagram product release

How to Collab with Other Users

Collaborating with other users is a little different than collaborating with a company or brand.

You may want to collaborate with another user if that user aligns similarly to your brand and you both can gain something from the collaboration.

The mutually beneficial component of a collaboration should be even more emphasized when collaborating with other users.

An example of a collaboration with another user is a well known photographer collaborating with a social media model in which the photographer takes pictures with the model then they post the behind the scenes and the images from the photoshoot on each of their Instagrams.

Often, the objective when collaborating with another user is not for financial gain, but a brand awareness play. To expose each other to each other’s social media followers and hopefully gain new followers.

How to Collab with Brands

Collaborating with brands and companies are the most common collabs and is often what people refer to when they mention getting collabs on Instagram.

In order to collaborate with brands successfully, it’s important to follow the tips listed above of:

  • Develop a Brand
  • Figure Out Target Audience
  • Figure Out Mission or Goal
  • Research Brands, Users, or Companies
  • Reach Out to Them
  • Execution
  • Measure Results and ROI

Above all else it’s important that you remain professional and know your value and worth.

By remaining professional, you will make the experience enjoyable. If brands enjoy working with you, then they may want to work with you again in the future.

Final Remarks

We hoped you enjoyed this guide on Instagram collaborations.

Now we’d love to hear from you.

Is there a collaboration tip that you resonated with?


Is there an Instagram collaboration idea that we missed?

Either way, let us know by leaving a comment down below.

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