by Jennifer Lumba | November 10, 2013

Social media has made both individuals and brands more visible. Even so, few online brands develop a genuine online following.
Size is part of the problem. The biggest social networks serve hundreds of millions of users. So many that even big brands such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. draws just 19,000 followers on Twitter. More than 150,000 people follow Hockey Night In Canada, but that’s still a fraction of what some brands draw.
Consider the feed of astronaut Chris Hadfield, who, at last count, had nearly 1 million followers. Fame certainly accounts for some of the difference -- he’s the first Canadian to command the International Space Station -- but the rest is a study in how to engage online. Here are 10 tips for building your social media following:
1. Be unique. Behind every social profile is a person and people are attracted to distinct voices. Be yourself. Make sure that others who "know" you in the real world recognize what they're seeing from you online.
2. Have something to say. Don't parrot others or take to social media out of a perceived obligation. Instead, develop a platform. Be known for something. You'll be more interesting and more likely to attract like-minded peers as followers.
3. Remain consistent. Set a schedule for posting new material and then do your best to stick to it. No, you won't always be online at the appointed time. That's fine. Just be as consistent as you can, knowing that regulars appreciate having an idea of when they might hear more from you.
4. Recognize great ideas. Social media is different from broadcast media in that there can be -- and often is -- an exchange of ideas. Embrace the difference. Watch for, and when appropriate, endorse great content. Your followers will appreciate finding new sources.
5. Don’t just follow -- engage. Similarly, engage with those you follow and who follow you. Post compliments or thoughtful criticisms. Start and participate in discussions about the topics that are important to you and those who follow you.
6. Be fun. It's easy to be informative. Post a few links of your own, repost a few links from others, and you'll have fed your audience. But will they be satisfied? Not likely. Don't be boring! Seek to entertain as well as educate and you'll wind up with a more engaged following.
7. Surprise your followers. Online attention spans are notoriously short. Guard against losing followers by throwing in a surprising post now and then. Whether it's funny, scary, or shocking doesn't matter. You're going for raised eyebrows in hopes your audience will wonder what you'll post next.
8. Be friendly. There’s no excuse for being rude. Be pleasant in your online interactions and you’ll earn a reputation as someone who’s worth following.
9. Stay with it. Look at Hadfield. His mission to the International Space Station may be over, but he’s still online talking with friends and followers. He’s posting about topics that matter to him, and which he believes should matter to others. Your following expects nothing less.
10. Be a curator. Substance matters. Spam your audience and you’ll not only lose readers but you’ll also have a hard time gaining new ones. Be selective about what you post. What do you want your readers to know? What will they learn by reading your post?
In the end, social media isn’t all that different from any social setting. People will gravitate to the most unique, friendly, and engaging personalities. So, unleash yourself. The followers will come.

Jennifer Lumba is the chief marketing officer of Rideau Recognition Solutions. Built on state-of-the-art technology, Rideau’s employee recognition and customer loyalty programs change the way companies recognize employee service and achievement, reward individual and team performance, strengthen customer relationships, and create brand loyalty. Lumba can be reached at [email protected]