by Jennifer Lumba | April 07, 2014
Marketers love social media. And why not? Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks sell advertising on the premise that these networks self-organize around areas of common interest, making them easier to target.
If only it were that easy. A recent study from ExactTarget says users who’ve given a company permission to market to them still prefer to receive pitches via email. Social media, the study concludes, isn’t the appropriate venue for pitching prospects.
What to do? Avoid the hard sell and think instead of social media as a gathering place for finding new friends and acquaintances. Then, once you’re online, employ these 10 tips for growing your social media following:
1. Clarify your strategy. First, establish your humanity. Be clear about who you are, why you’re on social media, and what those who follow can expect from you. Give connections a reason to engage.
2. Develop a schedule. Once you’ve established who you are, give followers a sense of how often they might hear from you. There’s no need to be draconian -- I’ll post every day at 3 pm! -- just be consistent. Forgettable posters tend to lose followers quickly.
3. Demonstrate expertise. Prove you have something to say. Whether it’s linking to a blog post, participating in a chat, or engaging with would-be followers who share your interests, take action when you’re online.
4. Connect with your ideal audience. Err on the side of spending time with those who are most likely to share your expertise and interests. These are the ones most likely to follow you, and recommend you to others who might be interested in your company.
5. Use humor. You needn’t be a comedian. A relevant joke here and there is all that’s required to lighten the mood while demonstrating that you’re approachable.
6. Avoid whimsy. Humor is good, but it also shouldn’t come at the expense of value. Think of it as the difference between binging on candy and a good meal. An endless string of jokes and emoji won’t help the poor soul following in hopes of learning how to better engage workers.
7. Be generous. Don’t pretend that you’ve a monopoly on wisdom. Rather, seek the best posts from among your network and re-share them. Others will take note of your generosity -- and your eye for valuable content.
8. Seed ideas. Reward your followers by giving them early access to in-process ideas. Reveal what you’re thinking and ask for feedback. If you’ve built strong enough relationships, you’ll get that and more.
9. Reach out to those with influence. Your network is only as good as those with whom you’ve built relationships. Seek to connect with the most-followed experts in your field.
10. Engage frequently. There’s a difference between posting and engagement. The latter implies interaction and demonstrates you’re more than a robot. You’ll also stand out as a human with insights, opinions, and a unique voice worth listening to,
Social media isn’t a category so much as a mechanism for enabling shared experiences across the great vastness of the Internet. So if you want a following, engage. Be part of the conversation. It’s only when peers discover that you’ve interesting things to say that they will they spread the word about you to others.

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]