Perceptions about social media participation are relative. In some circles it’s an automatic and daily communication medium, while others still wince at the mention. I’ll come clean and admit to being a regular social media participant, having seen the benefits of strengthened relationships (business and personal) and up-to-date sharing of the latest news and commentary in a largely unedited format.

The skeptics have their reasons. Anecdotally they range from security (Facebook could one day be breached or the company could decide to share personal information more liberally) to reputation sensitivities (don’t reveal anything that makes me look like I have less knowledge than my competitors or that exploits my weaknesses).  There’s still also a healthy debate about the value social media participation to a business’ bottom line.

It’s a tricky thing, being willing to take a calculated risk and participate to thoroughly judge whether or not it is worth continuing to pursue. Certainly a public Twitter presence should be taken seriously. For example, a company should portray itself the same way on social platforms as it does via its website or in other public corporate materials and not reveal sensitive information. Trade secrets aren’t the focus of social platforms; rather, social media should enable the company to participate in a larger conversation about their industry and show that they are engaged, whether by retweeting/reposting relevant industry news (including their own), commenting on an interesting conference presentation or posing a question weighing on the minds of colleagues. This type of dialogue is rarely harnessed during the course of regular workday conversations or email and can be a powerful supplement to core business communication. It fosters valuable relationships and bolsters a company’s reputation and marketplace visibility.

To those still holding out, I challenge you to dip a toe in, explore and connect. You might just find your tweet being retweeted because folks thought you had something great to say or share. That sounds an awful lot like thought leadership, doesn’t it?

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