Online popularity seems to be difficult for some brands to manage. Setting up a Facebook page and a “like us” link on your website just won’t do the trick. You have to be engaging. You have to be interesting. If you or your company are planning on using social media as part of your branding and marketing effort, congratulations you are making a choice that can change the way you communicate with your market. If you want that choice to pay off here are the five rules for developing a community that  is interested in what you have to say.

1. It’s all you, you, you with me

The first, and most important rule when it comes to engaging your audience is that you must be relentlessly, almost obsessively, focused on them. Far too many brands, used to communicating in a broadcast manner, spend too much time talking about themselves. In the world of social media, where everyone’s voice is equal, turning up to a party and only talking about yourself is pretty uncool.

Don’t pitch what you have to sell. Think about what your market is interested in and then work out how to to tie your brand or products into the story. Ask questions. Be interested in your audience and they will be interested in you.

2. Understand your audience

This rule is really just an extension of the last one. It’s not enough to simply be focused on your audience ;you have to know who they are. The analytics to know where they come from, how old they are and what they like are available. Use them. Then go deeper to find out what they like. Think of interesting ways to find out about their dreams. Then show how you can help achieve them.

The more time you spend understanding what motivates your market the better you will be able to communicate with them.

3. Content is your fibre – stay regular

There is nothing worse than being let down by someone you have a relationship with. Remember that when you start to engage your audience on your Facebook page.Because if you stop regular updates that is exactly how your market will feel. They expect regular contact and your brand can be easily damaged if you neglect your social media presence.

The easiest way to ensure you stay on track is to develop a simple content plan and stick to it.

4. We’re here to talk, so talk already

Social media is a conversation. Your audience may not comment all the time but when they do they expect to be heard and how you choose to handle that conversation will be watched. Be timely and be as open and honest as you can.

Treat conversations like you would a networking event – making the effort at conversation is likely to pay off.

5. No one night stands – make friends

Social media is not about creating spikes in activity. If you do that you run the risk of disappointing your market. You are far better to spend the time building trust and developing relationships.

This tends to go against the instant “win” mentality of many marketing activities. It takes time and and effort. But building a strong and loyal network is what every company wants. Make friends with your customers and they will help you achieve your goals.

So there you have it. Five simple rules to become a better social media citizen. Flaunt them at your own risk, obey them and be rewarded with new friends in all the right places.