Social media started out as a simple idea: a way for people to share tidbits about their lives, and be social online. But today, it’s become something completely different.

While some people still treat social media as a platform for sharing and connecting, it’s now primarily the predominant channel for brands and personalities to communicate with audience and customers. Social media is a centerpiece of business – and it can seriously make you money.

On social media, companies have complete control of their content creation, where it’s published, and how it’s performing. Likewise, “influencers” who amass millions of followers have become an entirely new kind of business, attracting fans and brands who’d like to advertise on their social media accounts.

But growing a decent social media following is no easy feat. With new platforms, constantly changing algorithms, and new ways to consume content, you need to keep up in order to stay relevant. It may seem like an impossible undertaking, but anyone willing to put in the work can build a following and reap the benefits.

Here’s how you can start building a social media following on any platform.

Be Consistent

Think back to any series you’ve watched on TV. Shows are broadcast on the same day and at the same time every week. The same goes for the morning news, radio shows, or even your yoga classes. A routine, or schedule, helps people know what to expect and prepare for.

Consistent social media posting gives you a better chance of success than randomly posted content posted. Even lousy content will perform better than great content if it’s posted on a regular schedule.

Whether you post twice a day, three times a week, or four times a month, it doesn’t matter – as long as you stick to it. Fans and followers will get used to these regular posts, and they’ll be more likely to keep following and interacting with your content.

Pick the Right Social Media Channel

If you have the manpower and the creative output, by all means, create profiles on all social media channels and post consistently. However, small businesses and entrepreneurs have neither, and should be smart when they pick a social media channel. If your resources are limited, you should put all your efforts in the right place.

The best course of action is understanding where your customers “live” online. If you’re targeting professionals you should go to LinkedIn; if your audience is millennials, Instagram is your smartest choice; and for the older generation, Facebook is your best bet. You should also think of the type of content: how-to videos do well on YouTube, resourceful articles thrive on Medium, and silly memes can be posted, well, pretty much everywhere.

Learn the Tools of the Trade

Gone are the days when people slaved away online creating content and waiting for the right time to publish. With the advent of new technologies designed specifically for social media, people can organize and automate all their posts.

This means you can work on creating future content or other areas of your business while a software or program does the hard work of posting regularly for you.

Classic tools for automation include IFTTT (If This Then That) and Buffer, which help you automate posts on social media. Many people use Trello to organize their editorial calendar, Google Analytics to understand traffic sources and conversions, and Canva to create amazing posts in the right format for each social media.

Network With Others

It goes without saying, but one of the biggest pieces of advice is this: in order to succeed on social media, you need to be social.

In addition to posting your own content and updates, your strategy should also include engaging with others. You’ll want to share others’ posts, generating discussions and building relationships with influencers, brands, and niche leaders. You can slowly put yourself on their radar and eventually work together.

One way of doing this is by commenting on their blog posts, doing an Instagram takeover, starting conversations on Twitter, or tagging them in your own posts if you think their audience might benefit from the content. You can also attend one of the many media conferences and network in person, which can lead to fruitful partnerships in the future.

Study the Competition

Is there something others are doing on social media that’s working really well? Any ideas that you see that are generating big conversations or making a splash? Don’t hesitate to use your competition as inspiration. After all, Instagram Stories were “inspired” by Snapchat – so you can adopt others’ social media ideas for yourself.

If similar brands are doing well on Instagram, but you’re putting your efforts into Facebook, maybe you’ve chosen the wrong social media to advertise. Check their profiles and the posts with the most engagement, do you see a pattern? Is it formal or casual language? Do pictures get more likes than videos? Or is it the other way around? Take note and incorporate their strategies into your own.

Pay for Advertising

In the past, you could simply publish incredible posts online and all your social media channels would grow organically, without much effort. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case anymore.

Algorithms keep changing, which means your followers won’t always see your posts. For instance, there was a time when your posts were shown to all your Facebook page followers; today, it’s probably about just 10 percent.

However, don’t despair! It’s important to understand that advertising on social media is extremely cheap at the moment. And because social media platforms have so much data available, you can personalize your posts and target them to the right audience. When you give people what they want, it’s a win-win situation.

Test, Test, Test!

Social media management isn’t a sprint; it’s an unusually long marathon. Everyone wants every one of their posts to go viral every time – but to get to that point, there’s a lot of trial and error. In order to find what the internet likes, you’ll need to slowly refine your content.

You should analyze the engagement and traffic of everything you post online. If you’re not sure why a certain post went viral, do some A/B testing: change the headline, the picture, or the target audience and see how it fairs. Basically, you should post, analyze, rinse, repeat, and double down on what’s working.

Focus on Your Audience

While there are many blogs and social media channels that cater to large audiences with different interests, the most successful are the ones that pick a niche and have a very specific focus.

Ideally, you should have an audience persona in mind when creating your social media profile and content. When you settle on a niche, you can then create content that fits into the angle, topic, or type of personality and be as detailed as possible.

For example, instead of creating content about “bags,” you should focus on a specific type of bags – for example, bags for female millennial travelers who enjoy the digital nomad lifestyle and are big spenders. Instead of creating content about food, you’ll want to pick a specific kind of food, like healthy recipes made at home for those on a tight budget.

Share Others’ Content

Even if you are the most interesting person in the world, no one wants to consume your content 24/7. So, while your posts should focus on what you’re offering, it’s also important to add some variety into the mix.

The best course of action is to bring value to your audience, but from different sources. Share a link or two from another social media influencer, or retweet your favorite remarks from brands or thought leaders. Find out who the big thought leaders in your niche are, and share their content with your audience.

As an added bonus, you’ll be enhancing your content by being social – and that can attract more followers. When you share others’ content that you yourself like, you’ll be giving them more attention. And their followers may also flock to you.

Create Awesome Content

At the end of the day, even if you use all the tips above, but your content is not up to standard, you won’t succeed. Social media feeds have limited space, and as everyone is fighting for people’s attention, if you don’t hook your followers immediately, they’ll easily click away and be lost in the internet limbo.

If you’re an excellent writer, video maker, or audio producer, just put out your best work. But if you’re not, spend some time to learn it well, if you have time, or pay someone to do it for you. And once people start seeking out your content, make sure you ask them to subscribe to your social media channels.