Do you get the feeling that the world of social media is experiencing a big shift? For example, Instagram content has become so repetitive that a styled photo isn't enough to stand-out anymore.

It feels like power is flowing back to those influencers who created, or are creating, a real following of engaged users. This shift will mean that the engagement of one's account is more important than the size of its following.

Now that the Instagram robots are virtually marginalized and the "growth hack" tips and tricks are obsolete, how do you build a massive following of users who are actually engaged? I don't have the answer, so I interviewed someone I know who does: Matt Gottesman of Hustle & Deal Flow.

I first met Gottesman when he interviewed me on his podcast - and I've followed him ever since. I admire how authentically and quickly he's built an engaged community of more than 135,000 followers on Instagram

If you're just launching a new brand, or want to take your brand to a new level, you should consider these 5 big secrets for building a strong social media following.

While some might seem obvious, dive into each one on a deeper level. You'll find that the best influencers do these things while the fakers ignore them in pursuit of the next shortcut.

1. Authenticity

Why is it that some social accounts seem to attract buckets of followers without much effort? The reason is authenticity. No matter their style or passions, the biggest influencers live from a place of authenticity.

"When you're aligned with your purpose, and you live the expression of that alignment, others can't help but feel it and connect with you," says Gottesman. "Authenticity is the source of the connection, and without connection, you don't have much."

2. You need to know who you are (and your purpose)

The main requirement for living authentically, and expressing authentically, is knowing who you are. When you cultivate a deeper sense of your own identity, and your purpose, you can express it freely and authentically.

In Gottesman's case, he blends mindfulness with the hustle of startup and business life. The reason his content is so influential is because he lives the very content he shares. His quotes come from his own process of self-discovery and his personal mindfulness practice. 

His Instagram posts, and podcast, Hustle Sold Separately (with co-host, Case Kenny), are by-products of his own hustle. There is no difference between Gottesman the person, and his Instagram account. That dynamic is how you achieve full alignment between who you are and your purpose.

3. Your vibe attracts your tribe

One of the biggest things I've noticed about Gottesman's Instagram account is that his engagement is significantly higher than the average engagement for an account with around 135,000 followers. Why is that?

It only takes a few minutes to notice how much Gottesman's energy aligns with the content and message he shares. His energy, his beliefs, and the vibration at which he lives immediately comes across in the content he shares. He uses his Instagram stories to further reinforce his message that creation and ambition is a living and breathing process of perfect imperfection.

When you follow his account, you can't help but feel a sense of oneness with him and oneness with your own future self. I'm sure you've experienced this with other influencers or other brands. When you feel a deeper connection, you are more inclined to participate and engage. Study his posts and you'll quickly see what I mean. It's powerful.

4. Engagement is a two way street

Most folks that want to build a big social following focus only on themselves and the content they're making. One secret to Gottesman's success is putting as much focus on his audience as he does himself.

"I take the time to respond," says Gottesman. "I look at their profiles and take the time to understand who they are and what drives them. When I find a powerful creator, I'll invite them into my Facebook group to continue discussing their journey and supporting them. I'm here to support my tribe."

Are you following and engaging your most active followers? Are you messaging folks and responding to comments? Most people skip these items because they take time. Invest that time and you'll be pleased with the results. 

5. Show your audience that you care

Above all else, Gottesman generally cares about his audience's personal growth. When I asked why it's so important, he said, "We all have a responsibility to serve others with our talents and skill sets." He continues, "I've been through enough to know that the entrepreneurial journey and creative space can be lonely - and I'm here for them."

It's unique to see how much Gottesman cares about his audience. He said, "I don't just want to empower them with business knowledge that shortens their learning curve, I also want them to have a mindset that fosters long-term, sustainable growth for all parts of their life."

Again, the key here is that Gottesman's posts convey this message clearly and passionately. He even tells his audience that he cares for them. You can see and feel how much he cares. That's what galvanizes his community and draws his audience to him.

One step you can take is carefully assess how much you care about your customers or audience. Are you telling them that you care? Are you showing them that you care? Are you speaking with them instead of at them? These are honest questions that can lead you to a stronger community and more engagement.

Final Word

You'll notice that these sources of success are not dependent on the latest growth hack or shortcut. These are proven methods for building a real and engaged community around you and your brand. These processes will result in a community of followers who trust you and connect with you on a real level. If you follow these tips, you'll end up with a tribe, not just a number of followers. That's the community you want. That is the type of community that will follow you anywhere.