Admit it. When you see someone with over 100,000 Twitter followers, you probably have one of three reactions: (1) Wow, how did they do that? (2) How much did they pay to do that? Or (3) Why would someone want to do that?

Let's get #2 out the way right up front. Yes, you can pay several organizations to artificially inflate your Twitter follower numbers. That's not what this article is about. Other than a short-lived narcissistic ego boost, I see no value in artificially inflating your Twitter followers with "zombie" accounts.

Instead, I spent some quality time with Marji J. Sherman, a top social media strategist who has consulted for brands such as Walmart, PepsiCo, McDonald's, Kohler, Zillner, BPI Sports and PRIME research (to name a few). Marji has spent the last 12 months cultivating and building her Twitter following to over 108,000 followers at the time this article was published.

Here's what she finds does NOT work:

Automating:
Broadcasting:
Buying Followers:
Hijacking other people's ideas:
Trying to be something (or someone) you're not:
not

Instead, what's helped Marji build her personal brand, includes:

Listening deeply:
at
Following the people you aspire to be:
Talking to as many people as you can:
Adding value to the conversation authentically:
Engaging on articles--not just retweeting them:
Linking up the issues you are passionate about:
Learning and Applying (Not Replicating):
Being awesomely true to yourself:
Talking about the bad stuff too:
You are your own unique brand:

During our time together, I found myself in "violent agreement" with these themes, ideas and overall approach to social media growth. There really isn't any "secret" to social media success as much as investing your precious time and energy into being your true and authentic self with as many people as you can in these social media channels. If you can learn from the experts who are doing it right, you can apply these principles to growing your own brand and that of your company's via Twitter and other social media channels.

Published on: Nov 11, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.