by Jennifer Lumba | April 18, 2016
For most of us, social media is how we spread the word about ideas and products that matter to us. Growing our networks help spread the word faster and more widely. But a bigger network isn't always a better network. Follow these 10 tips to expand your social media footprint the right way. 

1. Pick your favorite topics.
 You'll grow your network when others want to connect with you. Give them a reason why. Choose the topics you care most about and then post news and ideas related to those topics. Also, avoid merely reposting others' contributions. Have a unique voice and point of view.

2. Study the habits of influencers you admire.
 The easiest way to gain influence and grow your network is to get the attention of the influencers who cover the topics you care about. What types of content do they post? How often? The more you know, the more likely you'll be to attract your own following.

3. Take stock of your most engaged followers.
 Do you know what kind of followers you have? Do you know why the most engaged among them keep coming back for more? If not, ask. The more you know about the people who engage most deeply with you on social media, the easier it will be to find more like them. 

4. Study your most engaging posts.
 Asking helps but sometimes your audience isn't clear on what they like most about your feeds. Clear up the ambiguity by referring to the numbers and then look for common themes. Do certain styles of posts perform best? Certain topics? Replicate what works and cut what doesn't.

5. Look for crossover.
 When your most engaging posts are catching the attention of influencers in your area, it's time to stop and take notice. These "crossover" events are telling in that they indicate what a larger audience may want to see more of from you.

6. Engage conversationally.
 Once you've identified the audience you want to attract, it's time to connect. Answer questions. Participate in a group chat. Or, if the situation warrants it, interject yourself into a public discussion. Take the time to engage conversationally and you'll eventually hook people who want to hear more from you.

7. Accept most requests to connect.
 If you've done well engaging, you'll see the results in requests to connect on virtually every network. Accept most or even all of them. You can always decide later that connecting was a mistake. For now, your aim is to grow your network and cultivate deeper relationships with the followers who've made their way to your digital door.

8. Drop connections that don't fit.
 Occasionally you'll accept a connection that's not right. Perhaps they have materially different interests. Or maybe the decide to sabotage your posts with needlessly negative public criticism. Whatever the case may be, you needn't wait long to pull the plug. Remember: your aim isn't to build the largest network. What you want is a network where everyone participating adds value.

9. Pick a schedule and engage. 
Followers will get more from you if they know when to expect to see your contributions. Be predictable. Make your publishing schedule known and then stick to it. Even better: post "office hours" during which you'll be online and ready to engage.

10. Be complimentary.
 Don't let good contributions go unnoticed. Follow-up with a nice note and then add related content if you can, always citing the originator of the thread. At least some of your following will take notice of the kudos and seek to raise the bar in their own posting. How can we be sure? Social media is social. Help your followers to feel as if there's a benefit to participating in discussions with you, and they will.

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].