I received an email the other day asking me if I, or one of our team members, was interested in creating a blog post highlighting the results of some other company’s research study. I love collaboration, and I truly believe that it is one of the most critical components of successful content marketing, but this email just didn’t resonate with me.

It got me to thinking, and I want to offer my advice to content marketers to help you be more successful in forming collaborative relationships to help get your content shared, reach new audiences and create new alliances. If this article can prevent at least one person from being the victim of insincere collaboration efforts, then I have done my job. Here are a few things to watch out for.

Develop a History

Think of it this way. You’re walking down the street, on your way to your favorite coffee shop. Along the way you pass by a moving van. Some person you’ve never met jumps out of the van and shouts, “Hey, I’ve got two couches and a bed I still gotta move down from the second floor. You mind helping me? I’ll give you an insincere thank you in return and ignore your phone calls if you ever need my help. You in?” Do you jump at the chance, or do you roll your eyes and keep walking?

Now, second scenario. Your best friend from college calls you up and explains that he and his wife are moving into a new home. He says he’s got most of the moving under control, but he could really use your help moving a couple couches and a bed. He’ll buy you dinner and asks if you and your wife want to hang around for a while afterward and catch up. You recall the time in college when he skipped a chance to go to a party to help you study for an exam you had the next morning in your statistics class. Are you more likely to say “yes” to the first or second scenario?

As human beings, it’s in our nature to want to help out those who genuinely know us and have our best interests in mind. Conversely, we are naturally skeptical of those that ask for our help, but barely know us and offer nothing in return. This rule applies to content marketing as well. If you want to develop a collaborative relationship that benefits both sides, you need to develop a history with the other person or company first.

Don’t Always Expect Something in Return

It’s important for you to avoid looking at collaborative content marketing relationships as being 1-to-1 even exchanges. If you share another company’s Facebook post, don’t send them an angry email the next day letting them know that you noticed they hadn’t shared one of your posts in return. If you’ve nurtured the relationship properly, they’ll reciprocate on their own time.

No one wants to be hassled. Chances are that the recipient of your share is very thankful that you made the effort. They likely have planned to do the same in return, but keep in mind that they are working from their own editorial calendar and probably have a specific schedule in place. They’ll need time to figure out how to best return the favor. And even if they never return that particular favor, keep in mind that there will be plenty of other opportunities in the future. As your relationship strengthens, helping you with your objectives will even become a small part of their strategy.

Be Real in Your Communications

Perhaps the most annoying thing you can do, something that is sure to kill a relationship almost as quickly as it started, is to be fake in your communications. I can’t express how much it bothers me when I receive a direct message on Twitter or a ridiculously scripted email that clearly wasn’t crafted for just me. Have you ever received something that looked like this on Twitter, “Hey! You’re super cool. I love your tweets! Read my new ebook for free cause you’re so awesome! Please share now! Bit.ly/ANNOYING”? Halfway through that message I’m scrambling to unfollow the person (read: robot) as quickly as I can, maybe even report the message if it’s too over the top or gets too repetitive.

Avoid sending insincere, scripted emails and direct messages

Newsflash: I’m not sharing your new ebook. I’ve never met you, and the only communication I’ve ever had with you came across as though written by a machine. You clearly copied and pasted that message or set up an auto-reply situation, and chances are that you sent that same message out to about a thousand other people before it reached me. If you really want to develop relationships and get your content shared, this isn’t the way to do it.

Instead, start following likeminded users on social media. Engage with their posts. Share them. Comment on them and start conversations. Let the person or company know that you truly appreciate what they are saying. And, most importantly, let them know you are real. It may not seem like it, but they will notice you in time. The more your name or face pops up, the more likely they are to check into you and learn more about you. Once the relationship gets to this point, that’s when you reach out and bring up potential collaboration.

When to Walk Away

Of course, not all relationships last, and not all of them even start really either. Sometimes you can use all of the above tactics, and a number of others, and still not ever develop the mutually beneficial relationship that you are seeking. In that case, it’s time to cut your losses. But don’t give up on the process. It really does work.

You need patience, and you need to find likeminded individuals who truly understand the value of relationship building for content marketers. There are plenty out there, and the relationships that you form with them will be well worth the time you waste weeding through the insincere tweeters and complete strangers seeking one-sided assistance.

I’d love to read and respond to any questions, comments, or suggestions you have. Please drop me a note in the comments below.