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With 84 per cent of all online brands using a Twitter account and the average consumer spending 17 or more hours online each week, it's no wonder we're starting to see social media play a larger role in brand strategies. And it's no longer just the brands driving the conversations, companies are giving up the reins and letting fans, celebrities and influencers take over their sites.

In March, model Hilary Rhoda took over Estee Lauder's Instagram account. Posing in various places throughout New York with items from the company's new Bronze Goddess collection, she offered giveaways for the first five people who guessed her location. She was able to boost consumer engagement and drive more people to the account.

These types of takeovers are becoming more common, signalling a growing comfort level for brands using social media. Here are three reasons why they can be so effective:

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1. Takeovers drive engagement

By partnering with well-known personalities that consumers don't always have access to, companies are giving their followers a unique opportunity to engage in a completely open and transparent way.

The National Hockey League (NHL) provided a recent example when they let Dallas Stars player Eric Nystrom took over their Twitter account for one hour to host a Q&A session. Fans used the hashtag #AskNystrom which allowed them to get directly involved with the brand and steer the conversation. The dialogue provided fresh content and gave fans a unique inside view of the organization through the eyes of a player.

2. They foster authenticity

Aligning your social channel's takeover with your brands' values, rather than just getting a random celebrity simply for the name, can also be extremely effective.

Last week, AARP let one of its members take over the company's Instagram account. Gail Dosik is a baby boomer, who recently started her own custom cookie business, offered insight from a member's perspective, while embodying the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization's "Real Possibilities" mentality. Ms. Dosik's voice made the brand more human and relatable.

3. They connect you with customers and broaden your network

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Social channel takeovers can not only spark new followers, but also inspire current followers to become more active. Depending on who you select to take over your site, it can also help reach new demographics by strategically focusing on new themes or targeted content.

For example, comedian Rob Delaney recently took over the Major League Baseball (MLB)'s Twitter account for a few hours. Delaney is one of Twitter's most popular and comedic users, but he's also a huge baseball fan. His involvement let followers connect with someone new and foster their engagement with a genuine fan who cared about the brand. At the same time, the MLB also reached a new audience by having someone not directly related to baseball run the show.

Social media takeovers are definitely on the rise, and so far, have proven to be highly effective for brands. While giving up control may make some companies a little nervous, with the right candidate at the helm, the reward far outweighs the risk.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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