Twitter can be a great tool for brands, with official corporate accounts practically a requirement for business these days. However, many corporate leaders are still reluctant to foray into the social network.

There are several reasons for executives to be cautious. A misstatement could cause negative press for a CEO’s company, and the hazy legal arena of Twitter would make any corporate attorney want to put on the brakes. But don’t assume that the risks will always outweigh the rewards. Some research has found that both customers and employees respond well when a CEO tweets.

The good news for executives considering Twitter is that there are many examples of well-known CEOs who have already blazed the trail. Here’s what you can learn from three notable business leaders who’ve successfully made the transition to Twitter.

Pete Cashmore: Supplement Your Brand

The CEO and founder of Mashable is quite literally the face of his company on Twitter. Photos of Pete Cashmore are used as avatars for his personal account and for the official account for the popular blog.

The tweets on Cashmore’s personal Twitter Feed are a curated selection of links to Mashable stories. He also frequently retweets links directly from the Mashable Twitter account. Occasionally Cashmore engages in conversation with other tech leaders, but the majority of his feed is a supplement to Mashable’s main account.

This approach is one of the safest for a CEO to take when first testing the waters on Twitter. If you are concerned about the risks of having a personal account, then keep your activities limited to your professional identity.

Marissa Mayer: Glimpse the Insider’s View

Marissa Mayer generated plenty of media buzz for her career switch from Google to Yahoo, but she’s also noteworthy for how she presents herself on Twitter. Her tweets span a wide range of topics, from sharing photos at the Yahoo office to updates during tech conferences. Sometimes she mentions Yahoo news developments, such as new ventures in television or recent hires, but she’s just reiterating publicly available information. She’s careful not to break any stories or verge into business topics that could cause conflict with other tweeters.

Mayer also offers some insights about her day-to-day life. For example, she lamented the closing of a popular restaurant near her alma mater and weighed in on the NFL playoffs. She also promotes interesting projects that her friends are working on. The balance of Mayer’s posts reads like any casual Twitter user: work, friends, and fun. Her work just happens to be running a major tech company.

It’s important to note that her tweets strike a light, conversational tone. Even when she posts about her job or her company, the tweets are casual. No confidential or controversial statements appear on her feed. Mayer is a great example of how walk the line, giving fans of your brand a look behind the scenes without revealing too much. Take this approach if you are confident in your ability to keep neutral and professional on Twitter.

Tony Hsieh: Share Your Vision

We’ve written about Zappos and its unique take on corporate culture. CEO Tony Hsieh has made his Twitter feed a selection of insights about happiness and business that support the vision and culture of his company. A large portion of his tweets are related to the ideas set forth in the comic book Hsieh authored, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, And Purpose.

Hsieh is not a frequent tweeter. In fact, he’s yet to weigh in on Twitter so far in 2013. But volume of tweets doesn’t have to be your focus. Quality rather than quantity can still make you an influencer on the network, as evidenced by Hsieh’s 2.6 million followers! His rare posts are retweeted and favorited hundreds of times. Hsieh’s feed shows that if you’re passionate about an idea that relates to your brand, then by all means, get on Twitter and share it. You’ll find people who share that passion.

Does your CEO tweet? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!

[Image credits: Josey, Josh Hallett, Giorgio Montersino, Silicon Prairie News]