Ok, so you're on Twitter. But you're not Lady Gaga. Let's say you have a business as mundane as making signs.

How do you build your following?

Building a following is critical to marketing success not only because your customers are spending more of time on social sites than search engines but also because a strong following gives you a new channel of constant communication to a group of opted-in influencers. This blog post will share 8 practical ways to build a quality following in roughly the order you should undertake them. While the tools are Twitter-specific, the principles apply to building a following on Facebook and LinkedIn.

1. Fill Your Steam With Helpful Content. Let's get the semi-obvious out of the way first. 90% of what you tweet about should help your community and 10% should be about you. Use Google Alerts to find news items of interest to your community but add your own 2 cents worth because we want to know what you think. For more on creating helpful content see: 6 Types of Tweets.

2. SMO Your Business. Optimize your business for Social Media by plastering a Follow Us message on everything: your site, business cards, email, at the end of speeches etc. Leverage what fame you have elsewhere to build your new channel of communication. And if youre serious about follower conversion dont just do this:

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Do this and provide prospects with a reason as to why they should follow you:

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3. Follow Back. Be generous in the early going in following back people who follow you. As your following grows, add a Twitter management tool like Hootsuite to build lists of VITs and others.

4. Let Everyone Know. Make sure everyone in your company, suppliers, network and friends know youve started an account and ask them to follow you please. Not only does it build your following but it gives you a new way to disseminate information. To maintain an even balance of followers / following you may not want to follow back all these people back so you've got room to do the following.

5. Follow A List. To find leaders in your area of interest, use Twitters Advanced Search, ranking services like Klout or, better yet, Twitter directories like WeFollow. Simply pump in your area of interest

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find the top influencers and click through to their Twitter account.

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see if they have good lists for your area

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then follow the entire list.

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If your content is any good, a decent number will follow you back. Everyone once in a while use a service like Refollow to purge people who aren't following you back and aren't providing you with interesting content.

6. Find Some Friends. Services like Social Oomph are great at finding people who have similar interests or a need for your services. They even allow you to focus geographically. Do your keyword research to make sure youre using the right words, test it out with Twitter's advanced search tool to make sure it returns good results and then pump the phrase into Oomph's Friend Finder Keyword tool.

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You'll get back a daily list of possible friends and clients that you can vet in minutes each morning.

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Twitter doesn't like bot services that auto-follow tons of folks every day so cap it at 20 a day at most. Within weeks you'll have built up a healthy following. Purge. Rinse. Repeat.

7. Twiangulate. After you've got a hundred followers or so, identify 3 who are influential and who represent the type of following you want to cultivate. Then use a service like Twiangulate to find out what followers they have in common. Twiangulate provides an easy way to select which ones to follow by providing key stats such as their following/follower ratio and where they're located. image

8. Be Engaging! Lastly, importantly, don't be one of those Twitterers who are all me-me-me. As Dale Carnegie said eons ago in How To Win Friends Followers & Influence People be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise. Become a part of the community. And remember that, while research says you need at least 100 Twitter followers in order to generate leads, it also says that it's quality " not quantity " of followers that makes a message spread.

Hope this helps.