Creating a strong social media presence is all about the give and take. In reality, it’s a lot like a large-scale social experiment—everyone is encouraged to share, everyone is easily distracted, and occasionally somebody says something mean or inappropriate. At this point, you have to decide what kind of leader your brand should be: will you create a social community or a social dictatorship?

Both have their benefits. In a social community, you can create an open dialogue, interact with others who provide their honest opinion, and create potential customers and brand advocates.

As a dictator, you can rule with an iron fist—you’re free to silence rebels by deleting their comments, ignore the will of the people by reigning unresponsively, or even make people “disappear” in the blink of an eye by using the almighty block button. Sorry. That got a little dark for a second.

As you can see, the “benefits” of being a social media dictator aren’t really benefits at all. In fact, you’ll only succeed at alienating the people you’re trying to connect with in the first place. Learning to create a social community instead of a police state will help you make the most of your time, money, and energy.

Talk, don’t tell
Two-way communication is one key to social media success. It will help you engage your followers and make them feel like they’re truly a part of the conversation. Asking questions and creating a dialogue between users will also encourage people to stop by your page more often.

Give people a voice
People aren’t always going to love your brand. At some point, whether it’s your fault or not, someone will vent their frustration on your social media page. Instead of deleting the comment or post, simply do your best to empathize and solve their problem in a timely manner. More often than not, the angry agitator will just happy that you care about their problems and they’ll provide a positive response.

Avoid excessive propaganda
In other words, not every social media post should sell a product or service that you offer. Encourage people to follow your brand for great content that relates to their lifestyle instead of constant sales pitches. If your product is mixed in with stuff they love, people are much more likely to have a positive response to it.

Keep away from cover-ups
Being dishonest, whether it’s a fib or a whitewash, will cause big problems that are easy to avoid. If your brand makes a mistake, fess up. People will appreciate the transparency and be less likely to abandon your social ship.