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After two days of meetings in NYC, I landed in RDU and headed straight to Raleigh Ignite: a “geek variety road show,” as it’s affectionately described, focused on how social media is changing every aspect of our lives – from parenting to politics to putting yourself out there. Speakers had a total of five minutes and 20 slides each to discuss how they personally embraced social and what they learned from the experience.

One of the most entertaining talks came at the end, when Laurie Ruettimann pointed out that our ideas – about our careers, our businesses, etc – are not crazy. Whatever your passion may be, someone else is probably already doing it, and doing it successfully. Why not you?

How does this relate to social? For me, I think this speaks to the tendency for people to put a version of themselves out across social media that is not completely authentic. Fear of making a misstep or saying the wrong thing, or a desire to “play it safe” can lead to a social presence that is not a clear reflection of who you are. It also doesn’t give others a good reason to want to engage with you.

The takeaway from Laurie and other speakers at Ignite for me was to make your social media matter. For individuals this means being openly passionate about what you like, what you want and what you do. Others who share your passion will respond with a follow or a like and enable you to grow your network, potentially opening up new doors and/or providing new connections.

This also applies to businesses. Social shouldn’t just be a box you are checking off. It shouldn’t be a place to simply reiterate what’s on your website via pre-scheduled Tweets. Social can be so much more than another distribution channel for your press releases and blog posts. You can make social media matter for your businesses when you use it as an opportunity to connect with and learn from others who share your passions, goals and points of view. Companies that do this successfully have a social following that is authentic, and they allow social media to open the doors that can lead to new opportunities – for partnerships, business growth, thought-leadership and more.

If you are a business that’s hesitant or has put off social media, know this: your competitors are already doing it, and doing it successfully. Why not you?

Find out how Blast PR can help you make social media matter.

Carla Rudder