With organic reach dwindling across all social channels, especially Instagram, a common question is how to build a following.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. Sure, you could pay for followers to give the appearance of success, but that may result in the suspension or deletion of your account. Additionally, users will most likely suspect something is off and think less of you and your content. Not to mention that paying for followers or likes won’t improve the metrics that truly matter to your success, such as likes, comments, shares, and saves.

The best way to build an audience on social is to set aside time to engage with people on those channels genuinely and authentically.

Here are a few ways to work community engagement into your content plan:

Make It a Conversation.

Don’t just post something and move on. Spend time responding to comments and engaging with your audience. Turn your posts into conversation starters and try to build real relationships with people who take the time to engage with your content.

Don’t Just Talk About You.

Your account and content should be focused, but not focused on you. Make sense? If your brand accounts are all about selling your products and services, then it’s not going to be fun or valuable for your audience. Instead, expand your focus to include the broader category, environment, or topic that your brand exists in.

Share Other People’s Content.

It seems counterintuitive, but promoting someone else helps in a few ways. It adds variety to your feed and shows that you’re a good/giving community member. Additionally, the owner of the content you share is likely to share or mention you to their audience as well.

Join Question & Answer Sessions.

Many people follow brands for customer service reasons or to gain knowledge about a topic or product. So explore whether recurring Q&A sessions may work for you. You can promote these sessions within other channels to drive your existing audience to social. Plus, the conversations from these sessions will fuel additional content creation across all of your marketing channels.

Add The Right Hashtags to Your Posts.

Hashtags are a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, they can be an eyesore, especially if you use the full 30 (which, to be fair, we often do ?). However, on Instagram specifically, hashtags are the best way for non-followers to find your content and determine if it’s right for them. The important thing is to do your research to confirm that your hashtags are relevant to your brand, and that they’re not too competitive.