So here you are. As you sit in the darkness with your eyes fixed firmly at the laptop screen, the fear begins to take hold of you. It’s past midnight, or as some call it, the witching hour. You swear that the trees outside your window have eyes, morbidly watching each and every stroke of the keyboard. TICK. TICK. TICK. As you sit in the unbearable silence, your stomach begins to turn and your blood runs cold. You’ve been given the bone-chilling task of managing your company’s social media communities. You shudder as you remember your manager’s instructions: “I’m trusting you with our brand’s social media platforms Johnson! Don’t fail me or it’s your funeral!”

This is the end for you. Adios. Sayonara. Rest in peace.

Is this your social media nightmare? Does a chill run down your spine every time you’re expected to “engage” the community? Never fear. Finding your brand voice and servicing the community aren’t the monsters we make them out to be. Leave the horror for ghost stories and follow these simple tips for properly managing your brand’s social media.

Know Your Role

First and foremost, before you try to tackle communicating your brand’s social statuses to the proverbial masses, give yourself a personal brand focus test. You should prepare for your role as your brand’s chief social communicator like an actor prepares for a great film. Read, research and absorb as much material and brand strategy as you can, and then get into character.

Begin with a bit of projective questioning. What kind of person would your brand be if it was sitting at a bar? What type of drink would it order? What are your brand’s top 5 favorite albums? How would your brand conduct itself on Twitter? Don’t be afraid to really dig deep and find the core character values from where you’ll derive your brand’s online personality.

Be Transparent

This one sounds like a no-brainer, but transparency is something that is surprisingly overlooked in social media. Community managers and PR people often shake in fear at revealing too much of themselves to their audience. A veil of autonomy regulates control, and many managers fear the lack of control over the social conversation if they lose too much of that autonomy. It’s a part of the never-ending power struggle between the client-side PR machine and the customer.

The truth is, people appreciate honesty. Speaking as someone who has worked in customer service and is a customer himself, the deepest impact you can make on person is if you treat him or her as such. A person; not a number, market segment, slice on a pie chart or focus group respondent; but a real, honest-to-goodness, living and breathing person. It’s not rocket science to figure out that people take notice and respond better to those who are genuine, and aren’t constantly spouting the rhetoric of a corporate PR drone.

It’s the little things that make this so important. For example, Kodak’s twitter handle gives you a face to put with their brand name. Social media manager Jenny Cisney puts herself out there as the operator of the account, giving people an immediate human reaction upon seeing the avatar. I always felt like there was a strange disconnect when you’d see a faceless company logo responding to tweets, and I applaud Kodak for taking such bold measures at resolving that issue.

Strike a Balance

A community manager must walk a fine line between listening and publicly responding to the audience’s needs and providing them with fresh and unique content. We’ve all heard the phrase “the customer is always right”, however, social media scales customer service to both the micro and macro levels. It’s important to find the right balance between helping and catering to the individual customer, while also keeping tight, consistent statuses. You don’t want to ignore your customers, but you don’t want to come off as a corporate twit either.

Have Fun With It

Corporate social media doesn’t have to be dull. Be interested in your customers. “Engaging” the audience doesn’t have to be limited to coupon promotions, PR announcements or petty small talk. Get the fans involved and have an active conversation. For example, if you represent a software company, ask your fans on Facebook what new features they would like to see in the next release. If you represent a snack company, ask what types of snacks fans would pack on a road trip. Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. If you’re generally interested and curious about your consumers, then you will have an easier time at relating with them and build stronger relationships.

The bottom line is that social media doesn’t have to be a nightmare. If you’re honest, understand your audience, understand your brand, and have a knack for natural conversation, then you’ll do just fine.