“Be sweet, retweet.” A simple phrase Melinda Emerson has coined, and one that has helped her amass a loyal and engaged following online.

The entrepreneur and author, known as the “Small Biz Lady” to her followers, says sharing others’ content on social media has allowed her to grow and develop her brand on the Web.

“I call it ‘friend-raising,’” Emerson says. “Share other peoples’ content before you share your own.”

Emerson says entrepreneurs should first find engaged members of the social-media communities that fit your brand. The most important thing is to be clear about who you want to chat with online, and let them know who you are and how to reach you, says Emerson.

“A lot of times people will Google you before they call you,” she says. “And what you share in social media and even your social media profile is going to be what comes up in a Google search. Make sure you are also clear about who your customer is in what you are tweeting and sharing in your Facebook page.”

Another no-no for Emerson? Cross-promoting. Although it may be tempting for a small business owner strapped for time, she says its can turn off potential customers if you bombard them with too much information.

“Do not connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts,” she says. “Here’s the thing, Facebook people do not want to be communicated to like they are Twitter people. You shouldn’t have every piece of content you have going on every single social media account you have. You need to have different types of content shared on different profiles, depending on who you are trying to reach.”

Emerson has outlined her key steps to getting branding right online, in her e-book “How to Become a Social Media Ninja.”

Step 1: Know where your target customer spends time. “You should be listening first—go out there and figure out where your best target customer spends time online, and then join the conversation,” she says.

Step 2: Dominate on just one platform. Many small business owners try to take on too many social media platforms at once, and get lost in the shuffle. “Too many people are knocking themselves out trying to do Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn,” Emerson says. “Pick one and dominate on that one. Go out and claim your profiles on others, but focus your time on one.”

Step 3: Develop quality content. Many times this can be done by sharing others’ content, says Emerson. “I started out my Twitter following by sharing other people’s content online, before I ever launched by own blog,” she says.

Step 4: Use social media consistently. Starting a blog and then not touching it for six months isn’t going to help raise your profile, says Emerson. “You need to show up, and treat your blog [or social media profile] like it’s your job. You want to make sure you don’t use Facebook one day, and then don’t come back for a month,” she says. “It’s an online marketing strategy, and you have to do it every day.”

Step 5: Promote yourself with care. The final step to building your following is strategic promotion, says Emerson. In fact, she says to share your own content at a four-to-one ratio, meaning for every four times you share a follower or friends’ info, you promote yourself once. “On social media you don’t want to say, ‘Buy my stuff,’” she says. “Nobody wants to hear that. You don’t want to go from contact to commerce too quickly.”

Follow Kate Rogers on Twitter at @KateRogersNews