Jonathan Ross and Stephen Fry hesitantly introducing Twitter to five million Brits will surely lead to more companies taking the leap into social media.

And no-one will care.

Simply ‘being on facebook’, ‘having a blog’  or ‘getting a Twitter account’ won’t make your brand cool. In fact, get it wrong and it’ll be brand negative – like your dad dancing. Wearing a baseball cap. On backwards.

This is not because new media is a voodoo understood only by the geekorati. Far from it. As always, it’s about applying brand basics to new opportunties.

1. Own the category

Good brands know all about laying claim to the broader territory they operate in. It shows confidence, assumes leadership and educates consumers and customers alike.

Let’s say you sell coffee. Don’t make your blog just about your product activity. That might be fascinating to your colleagues, but not to the rest of us. Broaden your thinking and write about great coffee generally. About the bean growing process, about the best home espresso makers, about the Sunday papers and capuccino moment.

2. Know your brand

You know that old exercise about “if this brand were a car, what would it be” or “if it were a film”? Well, you’re going to need to know the answer to these questions. Knowing your brand’s tone of voice and view on the world is essential if you’re going to convincingly take part in online conversations. Southwest Airlines and Dell are getting it right.

3. Be where your customers are

It’s good to have a forum on your website and engage with people. But it’s better to be elsewhere too. You should come across as passionate and really taking part in the community. Practically, this means taking part in conversations wherever they happen, not just on your doorstep.

Get involved in whichever forums your customers use, no matter who runs them. But that does mean genuinely making a contribution, not just talking up your products. It’s the difference between being a gatecrasher and taking beer to the party.