social media ladderLet’s say you’ve done all the fundamentals to integrate social media into your business and marketing. You have a Facebook page and have worked diligently to grow your fan base. You tweet consistently and work to engage your followers. Perhaps you are a regular on LinkedIn and participate in Groups. If you’ve accomplished even some of that, you’ve secured a terrific foundation for continued success in the future.

But once the foundation is in place, what if you want to move up the social media ladder a little quicker? There is a faster path that can be summarized in one word - a concept for those who like to push progress and get to the finish line sooner. It’s something you can begin planning for right away and implement very quickly. Understanding this one word takes regular marketing growth and kicks it into overdrive. When explained properly, you can suddenly see the possibilities for turbo-charging your social media growth and the profits this kind of recognition can fuel.

The word is partnership. This came to mind recently with the announcement by Ford Motor Company would be adding a special focus on social media in their sponsoring partnership with the National Hockey League team the Florida Panthers. Ford recognizes the exponential equation in the social media world and the Twitter, Facebook and WhoSay pages of the Panthers will now be “Powered by Ford.”

But you would be right to wonder if partnerships could work for less well known businesses. After all, it’s unlikely that Ford is about to knock on your door and ask for a partnership. And maybe the Florida Panthers aren’t quite ready to kick Ford to the curb and switch to a partnership with you.

Fortunately, the power of partnership extends well beyond this type of high-level deal. Here is a terrific strategy for propelling your business from ordinary social media participant to a position of marketing dominance.

The key is to find a partner who serves the same target market as you but is not a competitor. This strategy will take a small amount of research and thought. If you are an accountant, perhaps you can forge a partnership with a local bank that serves your target market. If you are a movie theater, you could form a relationship with a nearby restaurant.

There are two important points to keep in mind when establishing this type of relationship. One, you want to make sure that your partner business is one you are comfortable recommending. Obviously, you are tying at least part of your own reputation to the other business when you enter into a relationship. Two, the business you partner with should be able to provide some social media leverage. In other words, you want to scout out other businesses that are consistently active on social media, have a decent number of followers, and are open to a mutually beneficial relationship.

Once a relationship is established, determine some ground rules for cross-promoting each other. As always on social media, you are going to want to avoid blatantly and constantly selling. Even if it is for someone else, this is a no-no. However, it is okay to say nice things about each other, talk about a great promotion, and encourage them to become fans of the others’ business. Just don’t overdo it.

Do you see the potential with partnerships? It is about much more than just getting recommendations or nice comments. It really is about leveraging each other lists, followers, and fans for the benefit of all involved. Form just a few of these strategic partnerships and growth will not be linear, it will be exponential.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t necessarily limit your partnerships to other businesses. Maybe you promote a non-profit that you support and get a thank you through their social media accounts. Nurtured properly, this could grow into a more formal partnership. Or maybe you belong to a smaller, exclusive networking group and you work together to formalize ways to promote each other using social media.

Start looking for ways to partner, take action, and keep your business growing. If you've established partnerships for your business share your experience and the things you've learned below. Thanks for your comments!