Now that social media is a must-have marketing strategy, marketers are constantly asking themselves: "How do we get people to interact, follow, or even care about our content?" To answer this question we interviewed influencers to see how they grew their follower base and their engagement.

Here are the top themes we heard during our "Eat. Drink. Social." podcast interviews:

Be yourself. Influencers agreed that when you're authentic and genuine about who you are as a person or a brand, it will come back to you. In order to accomplish this, you should know what your brand stands for before you launch on social. You should remain true to your brand despite what’s cool or trendy at the moment.

Be vulnerable. Whether it’s sharing a story or appearing on a live feed, the influencers who were willing to put themselves out there were often the ones that connected best with their audience. As a brand, ask yourself how you can take your audience on a journey that is “real” versus perfect.

Have fun. It’s not a glossy magazine; it’s not content that will live indefinitely - it’s social media, and it is supposed to be fun. Influencers admitted to sometimes hitting the pause button to give themselves time to recharge so they could create better content. As a marketer, ask yourself if you enjoy what you do or if it feels more like a job. If you aren’t having fun creating content, chances are your audience isn’t having fun consuming it. 

Care about your audience. Don’t make it a one-way push. Take the time to answer questions, read your comments and respond. The influencers who put in the time with their audience received loyalty in return. Make it a habit to monitor your pages and answer the good, bad and ugly comments.

Show up every day. Consistently post quality content. Many influencers said it was a slow grind to the first 1,000 followers, but word of mouth helped grow their account. If you don’t have a large ad budget, know that organic growth will take time.

Get out of your comfort zone. One influencer found she connected better with her audience when she went on video, another when she showed her face in photos alongside the products she was featuring. Think about how you can showcase the people and process behind your brand, not just the product itself.

Get off your own platform. Influencers experienced fan growth when they were featured on larger third party accounts. They also saw success in gaining new followers through Instagram Takeovers on accounts where their target audience spent time. Make sure your social strategy extends beyond your own brand accounts so you get in front of new faces.

Don’t forget to connect in the real world. Many of these influencers started relationships on Instagram and created meet-ups to connect in the real world. As a marketer, think about ways you can drive followers to real-world events.

Tap into the almighty hashtag. Influencers used a mix of local/specific hashtags and general/national hashtags to increase their reach. They also changed up their hashtags frequently to avoid being penalized by algorithms. It’s tempting to create your own branded hashtag, but make sure you add in others to extend your content to a larger conversation.

Have a purpose. Whether it was highlighting locally-owned businesses or promoting body positivity, the influencers who connected the most with their audience were filling a need beyond self-promotion. Think about how your cause marketing efforts can play out on social and make sure your fanbase knows why your brand exists.