Social media marketing works only if you actually have fans or followers. This article will walk you through 39 proven methods for increasing your followers across your social media accounts. There are three underlying elements that must take place in order for these to work:

You must be consistent. If you use any (or all) of these strategies for two weeks, and then give up and move onto something else, they won't work. These need to be practiced consistently over the long haul to be effective. If you have limited time and resources to commit to social media, I'd recommend choosing only a handful of these strategies and then making sure you carry them out consistently.

You must know what your audience really wants. What you think they want and what they actually want may very well be two different things. Take a look at your analytics to see which types of posts and content have been most popular; this is what they want to see more of.

You must be a good social media citizen. While some of the tips may seem more like social media best practices, keep in mind that growing on social media is as much about keeping your current followers as it is about gaining new ones.

Looking for more insights on social media marketing? Grab my e-book, The Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing.

39 Strategies for Increasing Your Fans and Followers

1. Reach out to influencers: Find influencers in your niche using a tool such as Buzzsumo, and then share their content, tag or mention them, or comment on their blogs. As you build relationships, they are more likely to share your content with their followers.

2. Put social share buttons on each blog post: Make sure you include social media share buttons on each blog post, not just in your sidebar. This plugin for WordPress can help with that.

3. Post original, relevant content: This requires some outside-the-box thinking. Sharing other people's content should be a valuable part of your strategy, but make sure to share your knowledge and insights as well.

4. Periodically channel your email subscribers to your social media accounts: Every once in a while, encourage your email subscribers to follow you on social media.

5. Link to your social media accounts on your Contact and About Us pages: These visitors are already reaching out to you; give them another way to connect with you.

6. Identify popular posts to get more shares: Getting new fans often comes down to how often your content gets shared. A tool like Fanpage Karma can help you identify the most popular posts in your niche.

7. Be responsive: Posting engaging content is just one piece of the puzzle. Respond to questions, comments, and complaints in a timely manner.

8. Hold giveaways and contests: Hold contests and make liking your Page or following your Twitter account a requirement for entry. Rafflecopter is a fantastic tool for this.

9. Actively find and follow others: Don't just count on others to find you; go out and actively find others in your niche whom you can follow and engage with.

10. Tell stories: To avoid being overtly promotional, use stories to connect with and engage your fans. Stories are far more likely to be shared than promotional content. For more on this, see How to Maximize Your Marketing Campaign Through Storytelling.

11. Use relevant hashtags: Use a tool like Hashtagify.me to find relevant and trending hashtags. Use these in your posts to attract new followers who are searching for those hashtags.

12. Streamline your efforts: Being active and engaged on a few social networks will net you more followers over the long haul than sporadically posting on many networks.

13. Post viral content: Easier said than done, right? Post Planner can help by providing you with images and content that have been proven to go viral.

14. Post often: Optimal posting frequency will differ between networks and audiences. Test out different posting frequencies and see which ones result in the most engagement and shares.

15. Focus on quality over quantity: While posting often is important, social media growth is more likely to happen when you're focusing on sharing amazing, quality content that you know your audience loves.

16. Link to your social media accounts everywhere: Don't be shy about linking to your social media accounts. Do so in your newsletter, email signature, blog, etc.

17. Discuss social media conversations on your blog: Entice your blog readers to follow you on social media by crossing the blog/social network divide. Blog about heated or interesting conversations taking place on your social media accounts.

18. Offer incentives for people to follow or like you: Offer your social media followers exclusive discounts, freebies, or coupon codes.

19. Guest blog on popular niche sites: Regularly contribute guest posts to popular niche sites and link to your social media accounts in your bio. For help getting started, see "The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging."

20. Add Facebook and Twitter widgets to your site: Go beyond simple social media icons, and use a Facebook Like Box or Twitter Embedded Timeline on your site or blog.

21. Promote your social accounts in-store: Offer your in-store guests an incentive to like or follow you on social media.

22. Try Facebook's promoted posts: Extend your reach by promoting posts that have a history of getting engagement.

23. Give stuff away: Incentivize likes and follows by giving away free product samples or prizes for new fans or followers.

24. Cross-promote with a complimentary business in your niche: Connect with other businesses in your niche and promote each other's social media content.

25. Build network-specific landing pages: Create landing pages on your site for visitors from each social network you're on, and then link to these pages in your social media bios. This may increase your follows only marginally, but you should see an increase in traffic and conversions.

26. Provide valuable education without being a know-it-all: Unique, valuable content that only you know has a great chance of getting shared. Think about what info or insights you can provide based on your unique experiences and industry knowledge.

27. Use humor: Evoking emotions (positive or negative) through your posts is great for increased sharing; however, posting funny or happy content will net you more sharing overall.

28. Reshare other people's content: Share posts, images, and tweets from other businesses, and they'll be more likely to share yours.

29. Become a valued member in an industry LinkedIn group: As you provide valuable insights, group members will be more likely to want to hear more from you on social media. For more on this, see my article "The Definitive Guide to LinkedIn Groups for Marketing."

30. Create topical boards on Pinterest: When naming Pinterest boards, be sure to target keywords people are actually searching for. To see what people are looking for, start typing possible keywords into the Pinterest search box, and see which keywords are auto-suggested.

31. Set a goal: Set short-term, specific goals for how many new fans or followers you want. This will help you keep your efforts focused and give you the best chance of actually achieving your goal.

32. Be a source of trending content and breaking news: Set up Facebook Interest lists and follow leading industry sources on Twitter, and then share breaking news with your followers. To find more info to share, see my article "How to Find Trending Blog Topics Your Audience Will Actually Care About."

33. Post only your best photos on Instagram: This suggestion goes along with an earlier one--focus on quality over quantity. With users having shared over 20 billion photos to date, posting a ton of poor quality images isn't going to get you far. Choose your best four to six photos each day and share the cream of the crop.

34. Be relatable: Let your fans and followers know you're a real person rather than a faceless business; this will make sharing your content with their friends feel like less of a risk.

35. Cross-promote your social media accounts: Periodically promote your other social media accounts to your fans and followers.

36. Answer questions on abandoned Facebook Pages: You'd be surprised at how many big brands have massive numbers of Facebook fans, and yet virtually ignore the questions and comments these fans leave. Respond in a helpful, non-promotional way to unanswered questions (and be sure to answer as your Page).

37. Include a social media call to action on your business card: Hand these out at trade shows, networking events, and speaking engagements.

38. Make sure your social media usernames are consistent: If you want people to actually find you when they search for you by name, make sure your account handles and usernames match your business name. Avoid abbreviations whenever possible.

39. Make your blog content tweetable with a click: Use a plugin such as Inline Tweet Sharer to encourage visitors to share your tweetable content.

What other strategies or tips would you add to this list? Share in the comments below!