Generating visibility and traffic for your brand and your content used to be a lot easier. It wasn't that long ago that we could generate links to get the job done. Now a lot more human interaction is required.

In 2014, Google announced that social interaction and shares weren't part of the search algorithm's ranking factors. That seemed to go against what Matt Cutts said in 2010 when he confirmed Google was using social signals as a ranking factor.

So while social signals may not be a direct ranking factor, a strong social presence and engagement with your followers can contribute to better visibility and significant traffic.

But first you need a relevant follower base to get there--emphasis on "relevant."

I strongly believe that it's not about the volume of followers I have: It's about their relevance and engagement. I'll forgo 50,000 random followers to get 100 committed people who will engage with me and the content I share.

I've got a matrix of five tactics I rely on to consistently and dramatically increase the number of targeted followers I have.

1. Cross-promote between your social profiles.

If you're trying to build a following on a new platform, or build up one of your social accounts, you should actively cross-promote. While users will have their preferred social channels, you already know those people are interested in you and are currently engaging your brand.

Your audience is spread out across a variety of channels. User statistics on just a few of the popular networks paint a clear picture of why you should try to grow equally across all the channels you use:

Regularly encourage Facebook and Twitter fans to start following you on Instagram or Snapchat. If you're using Periscope in conjunction with your Twitter account, then remind your viewers to link up with you on Facebook and to check out your other videos on Vine and YouTube.

2. Get shout-outs from influencers.

Working with influencers to increase a brand following is one of the fastest-growing promotional methods. Augure revealed that 84 percent of brands planned to include influencer targeting in their marketing strategy.

There are two ways to approach this: Pay for an influencer shout-out, or build an organic relationship and ask. If you're limited on time and you have the budget, you may be able to find a relevant influencer in your industry to pay for spotlight time and a shout-out. Just reach out, introduce yourself, and ask if they offer mentions and content promotion. Then discuss rates.

I personally prefer building organic relationships. With a little time and effort, you can build relationships with influencers through mentions, dialogue, and content sharing. Then ask them to help you promote a piece of your content or give your brand a shout-out.

You can even take it to another level by suggesting something more fun, like swapping Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat accounts or letting an influencer take over your account. Each party gains followers, so it's a win-win.

I recently did this with Morgan Brown and took over his Snapchat. Be sure to follow me as well on Snapchat (sujanpatel16) so you can see firsthand when I do takeovers.

3. Find your targeted following.

One of the best ways to grow your following is to find targeted users and start interacting with them. Narrow.io is a great service to grow your Twitter audience in this manner. It helps you build a targeted following by entering keywords and hashtags followers are likely to use. It then shows you the most relevant audience so you can start interacting right away.

"Twitter is a cocktail party," says Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia. "How do you become really good at a cocktail party? You show up, you go into a circle, you start talking. If you are a listener and you actually add something to the conversation, we become friends."

When followers see the value in your content and that you're working to engage--not spam--them, they're more likely to follow you back.

4. Add social sharing buttons everywhere.

In the same way you're promoting your social profiles on as many other social accounts as possible, you also need to enable your site visitors, subscribers, and fan base to share your content with their networks.

Add those social share buttons to all of your content including blog articles, landing pages, and software downloads, and don't forget to put them directly into the pages of any e-books or white papers you create. I'm always surprised when I hear a great podcast or catch a video and the host misses the opportunity to direct the audience to his social channels.

This method makes it easy to evangelize your audience, and increases your potential to reach beyond your current network of fans. It stands to reason that if your network likes the content you share, then their friends--with similar interests--will probably like it as well and be inclined to follow you.

"Bottom line, you want to develop content that inspires and connects with your audience with a goal of bringing them closer to you and your brand," writes Pam Moore, founder of Marketing Nutz. "You want them to click, double-click, share, and come back for more."

5. Share useful, valuable, amazing content.

It should go without saying, but it needs to be emphasized: It's not enough just to promote who you are. You have to give people something worth following in the first place.

You can't just curate and post anything just to post it. It has to be great.

Rand Fishkin recently discussed a similar issue with long-form content.

"Not sure where the idea that 'great content' = 'really, really long content' came from, but we need to dispel that myth," Fishkin wrote on the Moz blog. "Long-form content, on average, earns more engagement ... but that does not make long-form content the same as great content."

Your audience and interests are best served by crafting great content combined with curating awesome content. You can save yourself some legwork by using a curation tool like Quuu.co to find handpicked content based on your interests and those of your audience.

What have you found to be the most effective way to build your following? Share your tips in the comments below:

 

Published on: Apr 25, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.