Social media is a great tool for brands looking to build thriving relationships with customers. But despite a wealth of success stories, many corporate leaders are still reluctant to adopt, and unfortunately, that hesitation can hurt your brand.

When corporate leaders ignore social media, not only does it send the wrong message to employees and consumers, but the lack of participation also leaves those leaders out of important conversations that are happening without them.

We know that there are a few reasons why CEOs have been slow to adopt social media. For starters, the very nature of your job demands a strict schedule. Additionally, there’s genuine concern about what could happen should an update go awry.

But while it’s understandable that there are still some roadblocks to hopping on the social bandwagon, with the right knowledge and attitude, getting involved is a lot easier than you think. Here are two big reasons why social engagement is important for the folks at the top.

Employees Want Socially-Active Leaders

“Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer,” said Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail Angela Ahrendts. “I think you build one with your employees first.”

Employees want their CEOs to be social. According to a study by Weber Shandwick, 76 percent of global executives believe that it’s a good idea for CEOs to be social, whether that extends externally or internally. Eighty-one percent of respondents said that they believe CEOs who engage in social make better leaders, and 82 percent said they were more likely to trust a CEO who communicates through social media.

Additionally, socially-active leaders empowers and inspires employees. The 2013 State of the Global Workplace Report from Gallup found that only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work. Why does this matter? Engaged workers are the “lifeblood” of their organizations. Businesses that invest in employee relationships value people and experiences, which translate into real-world business results like profitability, loyalty, and advocacy.

Consumers Want Socially-Active Leaders

There are also many benefits to maintaining open communication channels with your customers. For instance, establishing regular activity on a social platform enables you to see and hear the conversations that are happening around your brand. But despite the importance of listening, there’s also a lot of value in engaging.

Past studies have found that consumers think highly of company leaders who engage on social platforms. It adds another layer of credibility and really helps to humanize your brand. And there’s more to it than simple sentiment and brand image — 77 percent of consumers polled said they would buy more from their favorite brands if the company’s CEO was tweeting.

Of course, corporate leaders aren’t expected to take on all of the brand’s messaging and social strategy. If your social profiles are bombarded and you’re feeling overwhelmed, rely on the support of your social team. Otherwise, keep the tone light and conversational. Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer is a great example of how to walk the line, giving fans of your brand a look behind the scenes without revealing too much.

Now that you’ve made the decision to become more involved, the next step is choosing which platform you want to grow your presence on. LinkedIn is a solid choice because it enables you to engage both employees and consumers through a variety of helpful tools in a professional space. It might also be an easier transition than the fast-paced real-time atmosphere of Twitter.

Once you’ve grown more comfortable with social, you can expand to additional platforms. Dozens of CEOs and corporate leaders have already made names for themselves on LinkedIn thanks to tools like the Influencer Program and Company Pages. For more inspiration, we recommend taking a look at some of the top ranked social CEOs. LinkedIn offers some great insight on what they’re getting right.

[Image credit: Liang ShiMax Morse]