What makes a brand get 1 million followers on Twitter?

How do you strike conversations that get hundreds of comments and thousands of more likes on Facebook?

Regardless of size or industry, building a community on a social network takes hard work and similar characteristics and strategies. The best brands recognize their strengths, their weakness and react promptly and efficiently. Even if you’re not Taco Bell, American Express or Starbucks, you can build a successful community (and do more than just “engage”) by implementing the same ethos as these larger brands. You’ll be surprised to find out that your strategy for your SMB and theirs differ quite little.

Be Kind

I hate to say it, but mom was right when she told us to always be kind to others. Well, this works for social media, too. Showing compassion and empathy for your followers goes a long way. Some may be illogically incensed with a certain bad experience, but by keeping an even keel and assisting your fan, that virtual kindness will go a long way in showing your fan (and the others watching) how much you care.

In fact, managing a page for a small business requires an even higher level of kindness, as your follower/fan comes to expect that type of interaction more so from an SMB than a Fortune 500 company. Therefore, it behooves you to be nice when responding to requests, even if you haven’t had a chance to sip coffee yet.

Be Helpful

I’ve noticed a poignant dichotomy on the accounts I follow and complain at. Let’s do a quick mini case-study of two airlines and their Twitter presence. Take Delta’s page, for example. It’s quite active daily and keeps customers up-to-date about news regarding the airline. All of that is well and good, but not when you stack it up to JetBlue, who aims to answer every single mention they receive regardless of its nature, it crushes Delta in terms of customer assistance and influence. If it’s good, they will reply with a quick thank you. If it’s bad, they’ll get to the bottom of it and not only try to be kind, but also be helpful. Delta is informative. They’re not helpful. Delta even tells you NOT to use Twitter if you “require a formal response”.

When juxtaposed with JetBlue, it’s no contest which boasts the better account. Especially within an industry that’s as finicky and has deep brand loyalty as airlines, an additional 30 seconds to craft a tweet can keep a continued customer.

For smaller businesses, your quantity of queries is likely less demanding that the dozens a minute these larger businesses receive, but that doesn’t mean you can slack off and reply when you’d like. Responding correctly is just as important as responding expediently. You may not even get a reply back, but don’t let that deter you from continued due diligence in answering queries and helping your fan base. The right social media response could result in a $1,350 sale.

Be Real

Brands and companies are too focused on reputation management and corporate structure that they forget to insert humanity into the account. If all your posts have the same verbosity and tone, people are going to (not) talk about your brand. They will do several things. First, they’ll wonder if it’s a human being or a robot posting for the brand. Next, they will get annoyed. After that, they will find no value in what you provide socially and then unfollow/unsubscribe from your updates to never come back again. You don’t want that, do you?

The same can be said for SMBs. People like knowing that there’s someone with a beating heart behind the computer. Show them that. Post a story or photo that may only be tangentially related to your brand. Try posting something that’s even totally unrelated but is funny or touching. Showing a human side isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it does much more good than harm for your overall branding goals and follower retention.

It doesn’t matter if you have 100 or 100,000 Twitter followers, your core tactics for building a meaningful online presence are similar. Who knows? Maybe, your kindness, helpfulness and realness will get you those millions of followers and subscribers one day. Just don’t do what Newt Gingrich did.