In today’s age of social media, most users believe that the more followers the better. For businesses, this can be a common misconception. In actuality, engagement is becoming more important than follower count—as the saying goes, “quality over quantity.”

For small businesses not as well-versed in digital marketing and social media, the obsession with just growing their number of followers can actually be hurting them.

Engaging with your audience is more effective than just simply broadcasting to them. Sure, you can send out your message to mass amounts of people, but it doesn’t mean much when the majority of them are scrolling on by. Instead of talking at as many people as possible, listen to your true audience. Join their conversations: what are they liking, what do they value, what are their passions, and what is making them engage with other brands?

Here are the best practices for increasing your social media engagement:

Offer value to your audience; don’t just sell at them.

To catch their attention and engage them, try to entertain or educate your followers. When you understand who they are and what they like, you can personalize/customize your content and offer them something real. Then, when you do sell to them, they won’t mind it.

If your company designs business cards, why not recommend a good book to your followers about branding themselves? You’re staying “on message” in a different way. If your followers are taking advantage of what you offer and truly getting something out of it, they’ll remember that—and you.

Put in the effort

If you really want to engage, you need to put in the time—there’s no way around that. There should clearly be some care put into every post. Cold and “automated” posts don’t reach people.

Don’t be afraid to ask for something in return: a review, a reaction, or just some commentary. Start a conversation that can tie back to your brand. Or, let your consumers tell you, and your other followers, how much they love you and what you do. If you get the occasional negative feedback, reach out and show that you care.

Reaction: Maybe you own a local yoga studio. Ask your followers to tell you about what morning habits make them feel relaxed and ready for the day. Include a reference about adding your sunrise yoga classes to their daily routine. You’re starting a personal dialogue with your followers while still “marketing” your company.

Review: You’re a doggy daycare. Ask your followers why they trust you with their dogs. Let them be the ones sharing all of the good that you do. Hearing about your “caring and enthusiastic staff” sounds more genuine coming from your real customers than from you.

Yes, we know that a larger follower account looks good to clients and lends you some credibility, but it isn’t the only aspect of social media. When engagement is neglected, you fail to build a true and targeted audience that actually wants to work with or buy from you. Get your relevant audience to like who you are and what you do; if they like you, they will probably be loyal and more likely to buy your products or use your services. Bonus: they’re more likely to talk about you to others. This is the best way to build an honest, relevant follower count.

Your new goal: get the “right” audience to like you.