I received an email today from someone who is taking steps to get their company engaged in social media and now that they’ve got a presence, they’d like to know how to get followers and fans.

I am sure this is a question you, and everyone else on the planet, has been faced with at one time or the other while wading into the social media-sphere.

I know it was definitely a hot question for me in the beginning days.

The famous line, “Build it and they will come,” from the movie Field of Dreams is just that …. a dream! It’s also NOT something that will happen within social media unless you are some HUGE celebrity and have an extreme amount of luck.

There are a few things you can do though to increase your chances of gaining a strong fan and follower base on both Twitter and Facebook. The following are four things to focus on to help increase your chances of successfully building a strong social media following.

1. Be Interesting

I know this sounds simple but think about it. How likely are you to follow some boring, stiff, corporate entity online? I know I wouldn’t!

The days of stale old boring copy telling your company history or announcing the latest product or sale just isn’t cutting it. Social media is just that … social. If you think about the times you’ve found yourself at a networking event and got cornered by some guy that was blathering on and on with all his “corporate speak,” I am sure you couldn’t wait to escape from his clutches. If you handle your social media content on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn the same way, you’ll have your visitors running away as fast as they arrive.

The Internet is not one dimensional and neither should the content you put out there on the social media sites. Provide content your visitors want to consume and stuff that is just plain interesting. If you do this you’ll find your fan base and followers grow.

2. Offer Value

Papa John’s Pizza did an excellent job of this early on in the Fan Page game. They offered a free pizza to people who joined their fan page. I just checked the amount of followers they have and the number is nearing 800,000!

I understand that not all companies have a product to offer that is as compelling as a delicious pizza, but that’s ok. Find something of value to offer in exchange for people joining up for your Facebook Fan Page. Maybe it’s a report, an eBook, or a discount at your retail store. Be creative and follow rule number one …. make it interesting. 🙂

3. Have a Strategy and Tactical Plan

Simply getting a presence on the most popular social media sites isn’t enough. It’s important to take the time to create a strategy and a tactical plan which will help you accomplish your objective of building your Fan or Follower base. If you are going to actively participate on Twitter, for example, make sure you are not only providing links to your website, but also include links to content which proves your expertise to potential customers.

The Internet is an excellent tool for consumers to choose a competent service provider and the old rules are now out the window. Nobody needs to simply take your word for it. Make sure you craft a strategy that helps showcase your VALUE, and don’t be the old school salesperson who simply tries to cram the latest offer down your throat.

4. Be Consistent

You need to realized that social media is a commitment, and something you need to take seriously. Whether you know it or not people are viewing the content you are putting on the social media sites and even if they aren’t commenting, they are enjoying it and in some cases becoming dependent on that information. The worse thing you can do is let them down, and not put out content on a regular basis.

These are four simple things to pay attention to when participating in social media. You’ll soon find that the more you participate with a focus on helping other people and providing valuable content, the faster your Twitter followers and Facebook fan base will grow. I’ve noticed almost each time I put out a new “tweet” with good, solid content … I’ll gain a new handful of followers.

If you have anything you’ve found that works great for you … please share by leaving a comment below.