According to Pete Cashmore of Mashable, Facebook is the world’s leading social network, with over 300 million users.

Clearly, using Facebook can be a great way to reach a wide audience with your messages. But how do you get the most out of it?

If you’re just starting out, or have set up a Facebook page for your brand but haven’t done much with it, here are some basic pointers to keep in mind as you get going:

1. Focus on content

Keep your content fresh and relevant to your audience. Keep your tone relaxed and friendly – Facebook is about chatting with your fans and building relationships, after all. Think of it as an ongoing, virtual networking event. That said, make sure that whatever you post is in line with the reputation you want to build and communicate. If you’re really not sure what to post about, check out some of your competitors’ Facebook pages and see what they’re doing. Which of their posts seem to get the best responses? Are they all business, or do they post on other topics of interest as well? You don’t want to imitate or mimic your competition – it’s very important that your personality comes through in your content. However, you can use the information you glean to generate ideas for topics and posts.

2. Timing (can be) everything

You’ll need to do some experimenting with the times of day, and days of the week, that you post. Facebook gives you handy stats right at the top of your Admin page, in the form of Insights, that show you how your posts are doing. Track those stats, and adjust your posting days and times accordingly, so you know each post is reaching the widest audience.

3. Grow your community

There are many ways you can grow your Facebook community and get more fans for your page. For example, the first thing you should do, if you haven’t already, is to install the Facebook icon on your website, blog, and email templates, and link it to your Facebook page. This makes it easy for people to connect with you. You can also run Facebook Ads and promote your posts or your whole page to reach a wider audience. This is not free, but you don’t have to spend a fortune on it, and it can work well depending on your business and goals. You can also run a contest. For example, send an email to your mailing list inviting them to like your Facebook page, and let them know that the first 100 new fans will be entered into a drawing for a special prize.

4. Photos & video

There’s no doubt about it: Including a photo or – even better – a video in your post can increase your reach, views and shares. Text-only posts tend to get lost in the shuffle. Make your photo, image or video engaging, and give it a consistent look and feel. This helps reinforce your overall brand so people recognize that it’s one of your posts before they’ve read a word.

5. Respond to comments and feedback

This is just basic etiquette. Think of it this way: If you received a call from a customer, whether they were complaining or praising you, you wouldn’t just ignore them. Right? The same principle applies to social media. Make sure you’re responding to comments that warrant it. Sometimes all that’s needed is to click the “like” button beneath a comment. This is the bare-minimum acknowledgement to the commenter that their post didn’t disappear into a black hole. So make sure you’re tracking comments to your posts and responding accordingly.

All of that said, this gives you a place to start, but you shouldn’t get too hung up on “rules”. If you haven’t done much in the way of social media up until now, you’ll see an improvement in your results simply by posting relevant content more often. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen if you stay consistent and post content that your audience wants to read and share.

Do you have any tips or tricks about getting results from Facebook? Share in the comments!