One thing many people don’t understand about social media is that reach is not everything. You can buy followers and the number of views on your post can change from week to week. While having a large number of followers is certainly helpful, it is not everything. Want to know what is everything? Being authentic, engaging, telling a story, and building a brand that resonates with the followers you have. Radically high numbers of followers means very little if you have no relationship with them.

According to research conducted by Nielsen , 92-percent of people trust recommendations from individuals, regardless of if they know them, over recommendations from brands. Furthermore, Sprout Social found that 74-percent of consumers use social media to make purchase decisions. So in case you’re a bit behind the times, social media is pretty important and building relationships on there are even more important. If you’re unsure, the research agreeing with us is everywhere.

Whether your social media numbers are high or low, if you’re a “true” influencer or a “micro” influencer, you can optimize your social media to improve your influence, reach, and engagement.

Talk to people. It’s easy to fall into the rut where you want people to comment or like your photos but then you don’t engage with others unless they’re engaging with you. Stop that immediately. Social media is meant to be social, it’s even in the name. Don’t fall into the trap of only engaging when others reach out to you. Comment on cool pictures or posts, build relationships with your followers, potential followers, and brands that you love. Go forth and be awesome and build relationships. Reward others who provide great content with a like, comment, or reply. Bonus: doing this also makes social media more fun. So, not only are you making your accounts more successful and engaging, you’re also enjoying yourself more.

Provide quality content. As I’ve said before in previous posts, provide the content you want to see on social media. I cannot reinforce this enough. If you provide quality content, a good attitude, and a friendly atmosphere, your audience will come and they will love you. Create engaging posts, use vivid images, share your favorite quotes, post fail videos, say funny things. Post the type of content that would make you laugh, smile, or feel happy to see when scrolling through your feed. Especially in the wake of impending algorithm changes, social media popularity favors quality content. If you want your posts to be favorable and not beg your followers to subscribe to your feed, post things that are so good it’ll be impossible for the algorithm to not work in your favor.

Post on social media consistently throughout the day. This is simple, but is often forgotten. Post frequently. Now, your followers don’t want to hear from you every five minutes, but they do want to see what you’re up to and feel involved in your life, stories, and humor. Some good rules of thumb to follow is posting on Facebook two to three times a day, posting on Instagram four or more times a day, and posting on Twitter as often as you have the time and content to post. That being said, these guidelines do not include having conversations with your audience, which should be something that you strive to do multiple times each day. Now, back to the quality point – if you don’t have anything of worth to share, sometimes it’s better not to share. That being said, you’re amazing and each day you should be able to come up with a few great things to share on your platforms.

Be honest. Let’s be honest about being honest, a lot of people become influencers for the free swag. However, if you’re doing it for the free stuff, chances are your days as an influencer are limited. If you don’t love a product or brand your audience is going to be able to tell. Be honest about the products you love and be honest to the brands (privately) about the fact that you will not negatively impact your personal brand by supporting a product you can’t honestly say you like. While it would seem like lying on social media is easy, it can be more difficult to do that than in real life. Only support products and brands you like. Be yourself. Be your brand. The rest will fall into place over time as your audience grows to love, respect, and trust your honesty and sense of authenticity.

Micro-influencers are rapidly becoming more popular because brands are beginning to realize there’s more to influencer marketing than a large reach. Engagement and story telling is just as important, if not more important, than a large audience. While you may not be an influencer yet, practicing these skills in your social media will not only help grow your audience, it’ll improve the overall quality of your social media accounts and how you build relationships online.