Social media has undeniably become a bona fide leadership tool. By expanding your toolkit to include social media, you are killing two birds with one stone: strengthening your reputation as a leader and enhancing your company’s brand. Women executives who are social media-savvy are perceived as more accessible, transparent and trustworthy business leaders, according to a survey conducted by NYC-based social media agency Brandfog. Hence, engaging in social media is essentially an investment in your brand.

The business case for social media has not been more compelling than today. Below are five key reasons women executives need to embrace social media.

Engage your staff

Using social media, C-suite executives are able to reach a large number of people quickly using a forum that enables one-on-one engagement. Social media has proven especially useful for CEOs during their first 100 days, reports Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at Weber Shandwick PR firm, after interviewing new CEOs in several industries. Julia Hanigsberg, president and CEO of Canada’s Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, for example, has experienced first-hand the benefits of social media. As a new CEO, she hit the ground running on the communication front by launching her CEO blog to share her vision with more than 900 staff members and nearly 7000 clients. Her blog posts, which often comprise a run-down of her activities and shout-outs to employees – from physicians to staff at the hospital’s coffee shop, allow her to engage staff whom otherwise she would not have the chance to meet. She equally flexes her social muscle on Twitter. When her organization launched a selfie-inspired fundraising campaign, she tweeted up a storm to promote it. “Social media gives people an opportunity to get to know me as Julia and as the CEO of Holland Bloorview,” she said. “People who follow me on social media and talk to me in the halls will see there isn’t a big disconnect.

Build your personal brand

Crafting a strong and authentic personal brand is key to executive presence. If you don’t take charge of your online brand, the search engines will do that for you. Building presence on social media platforms, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, helps you connect and build trust with your target audience, which is critical, regardless of your career stage. Make sure your various profiles online are updated, consistent and true to your leadership style.

Show your human side

Social media allows you the opportunity to show your personal side and to debunk the Ivory tower myth around your role as an executive. Don’t be afraid to show who you are. Kirstine Stewart, vice president of Media North America at Twitter, offers great advice in that regard: “I’m a whole person on Twitter. Professional is a part of that.” Social media, in its essence, is about making connections with others. Concealing who you are is a missed opportunity to form meaningful connections with others.

Strengthen your company’s narrative

By strengthening your online presence, you are by default enhancing your company’s brand. Media mogul Arianna Huffington is a good example to follow. She takes to social media everyday to promote her causes from sleep to redefining success and to wave the flag of her media company the Huffington Post. By sharing her perspective, through anecdotes and examples pulled from her own experience, she’s increasing her social influence and, in turn, improving her company’s brand and credibility online.

Gain a competitive edge

Online presence is often a key consideration when boards are recruiting a CEO, say Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt, co-authors of A World Gone Social. They predict that social media competency in five years will become a must-have leadership skill that will tip the balance one way or the other, given the choice between two similarly strong CEO candidates.

 

This post first published on Forbes.com

About Lina Duque

Lina is a social media strategist and coach to C-suite executives and entrepreneurs on online presence and thought leadership. Her work has appeared in Forbes, the Huffington Post and Globe and Mail, among others. Lina has presented on social media at various organizations, including Lean in Canada, International Association of Business Communicators, University of Toronto and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s largest bank. She also teaches Social Media for Executives at Ryerson University in Toronto.

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