In my experience, responses are a great way to connect and get followers. It’s all about making insightful or witty comments, but not necessarily long responses.
I made one comment on a story by Jon Westenberg, who has a ton of followers, and I got a hundred or so recommends in a few days.
I think that people tend to seek out stories more, and those are what the Medium editors and staff look for. I’ve had a few stories recommended by the staff, but never responses. I hope that helps.