Back in the day, when I was a member of Toastmasters, a public speaking and leadership organization, I was fortunate enough to be asked to be president of a local club.

I was honored, of course, but I had no idea what the role entailed. Besides being briefed on the many responsibilities that came along with being the head honcho, I needed some advice, some good, old-fashioned words of wisdom.

Just be yourself, I was told. There is no need to overthink it.

That’s what I learned at that time about being a leader and speaking in public. And that’s what I’ve learned ever since then about communicating on social media. Don’t put on an act. Just keep it real.

After all, the path to success, or at least a modicum of effectiveness, on social media can be excruciatingly long and winding, as there are just so many variables that can get in the way.

Never mind the fact that so many people and brands have no idea what to say and share on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like.

Even when they have figured out the content conundrum, the time, talent and tenacity it takes to harness what is still a newfangled way of communicating can overwhelm even the best of them.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

What if I told you that perhaps the most effective way to stand out on social media, whether you’re a big brand or small fry, is well within your means?

What if I told you that strategy can often be overrated in this space and that the size of your budget doesn’t have to equate to the influence you wield?

What if I told you that the easiest way to get from point A to point B on social (Read more...) is to simply be yourself? No spin. No filter. No beating around the bush. Just showing up every day with energy, enthusiasm and enlightenment for anyone who’s paying attention.

Whether you’re streaming live on Periscope or sharing a candid moment with your Twitter followers, updating the crowds on Facebook or chiming in on LinkedIn, planning your every move will get you nowhere fast.

Yes, of course, you need a semblance of a strategy and a good idea of your objectives, but any obsessing over your tone of voice, brand and anything remotely resembling a corporate style guide is only going to muddy the waters.

Social media is different than anything you’ve ever done as a marketing, advertising, publishing or PR professional. Social media is the long lost art of conversation brought online. Social media works best when you are using it to engage with others in an honest, open dialogue.

That’s not to say you don’t need a steady cadence of content in your stream, because you do without question. Your presence on social media has to be felt on a continuous basis.

So on your own or with the support of a team, go ahead and schedule an indefinitely lasting series of status updates, messages and posts about who you are and what you do as a brand.

A steady drumbeat is important. But accentuate that beat with a strong personality and point of view that is indelibly you as the human behind the scenes. That’s where the rubber meets the road on social media.

Take a look at Beth Comstock, GE’s CMO, on Twitter. Not only does she talk about innovation and technology, she also doesn’t hesitate to share a picture of a beautiful sunrise in New York City with her more than 80,000 followers.

Then there’s billionaire businessman, Elon Musk, who’s not afraid to publicly reveal his sadness over the passing of David Bowie.

Genuine. Heartfelt. Liked about 5,000 times, too.

There’s also T-Mobile’s CEO, John Legere, who’s as refreshingly candid as they come, especially for someone among the C-suite ranks.

Finally, check out what Bill Gates shares on Twitter. Go behind the scenes with the richest person in the world as he shares words and pictures on a multitude of subjects, from digital technology to the Zika outbreak to what music he’d listen to if he were stranded on a desert island.

Wait, there’s one more. Whoever is the writer behind the Georgetown Cupcakes Twitter account has a fabulously fun personality.

That’s just the right image to portray, even if you are representing a logo, not your own personal brand.

There you have it, five examples of big name brands who understand the importance of transparency and authenticity on social media.

Surely there are others, but if you ask me, not nearly enough. Unlike those above, far too many users are stuck on playing office and mired in corporate speak, lost in the noise of a madding crowd.

If they were listening, of course, I would tell them to follow the lead of Beth, Elon, John, Bill and even Georgetown Cupcakes. I would tell them to just be themselves.

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