What does it take to be a friend? At a minimum, you need the following qualities:

  • A general common interest
  • Mutual respect
  • Comfort to be one’s self
  • Honesty
  • Fairness
  • Open communication

I have no illusions that I’m probably missing more than a few qualities that should be on this list. But a tweet from LittleBird founder (and friend) Marshall Kirkpatrick caused me to think about what it means to truly develop relationships with the influencers that matter most to your organization, as well as those who may matter in the future.

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Building friendships with influencers is something that doesn’t come naturally to most organizations or the marketers telling their stories. Part of the reason is that the ratio of marketers to influencers is skewed kind of heavily in the marketers favor. It’s like putting lead on one side of a scale and helium on the other. No influencer is going to have that many friends, nor should they.

Another reason, and I think this is the one where a lot of people start to find out how difficult influencer relations is, is that being a friend means stepping out of your marketing skin and, well, being a friend. There aren’t a lot of people who can do that. There are fewer who do it well. The ones who rock obliterate any wall between being a friend and engaging an influencer. It’s a thing of beauty to see in action (one of the humans who does this the best is IBM’s Amy Hermes).

Building influencer relationships is not easy. It takes time. It means coloring outside the lines and on the fly of what might be on the existing marketing plan. It means less reliance on hard metrics and more acceptance of knowing you are doing what’s right for both the influencer and your organization (do you keep an ROI spreadsheet for your other friends?). It means being an actual friend to a small group of people you deem worthy of being part of your organization’s circle of trust.

If you need help identifying who your influencers are or need guidance on how to start developing relationships with them, give me a shout.