Instead of listing reasons why CEOs should consider using social media, I’ll let Dave Phillips, CEO of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, tell you in fewer words:

“Social media is optional and so is being relevant.”

Maddie Grant of Socialfish agrees. She recently wrote, “One good tweet from a CEO is worth more than 100 tweets from other staff.Her post inspired me to interview several association CEOs who enjoy the personal and professional benefits of social media.

Building a social staff

I “know” Dave Phillips from following him on Twitter and reading his blog. When I visited PAR’s online staff directory, I was astounded to see the entire staff had social media profiles.

Although PAR started developing a digital presence before Dave came along, only a few of them were using social media themselves. Once Dave was on board, they increased their social media efforts, both organizationally and individually. PAR even has a full-time community and social media manager on staff now.

Changing perspectives and habits is no easy task, but Dave said an early breakthrough came from their Twitter-skeptical governmental affairs director. “One of her goals was to do a better job with social media. As she live-tweeted a debate, a freshman assemblyman sought her out because he had seen her tweets and wanted to introduce himself to her.” No longer was there any doubt: social media could help break the ice and spark relationships.

PAR’s advocacy team has experienced other social media benefits. The average response rate for political calls to action is 10% nationally. Because they supplement traditional tactics with social media, PAR’s is 18%.

The personal/professional line

Dave’s had a blog and Facebook profile since, well, forever. He doesn’t spend much time on LinkedIn, but loves Twitter. “I resisted Twitter when it first came out because I knew I’d become completely addicted to it.” I’m happy to report Dave’s found balance with Twitter.

He decided long ago to have only one social media profile, not separate personal and professional profiles. “I have one face, the same face. I’m not as fun to follow as I could be, but I also don’t accidently post things in the wrong place. One account keeps it simple.”

Dave believes the line between personal and professional, particularly with the younger generation, has blurred. “It’s almost become nonexistent.” He says, “The true value, the genius of social media, is engaging other people. That’s my main thrust in social media. That’s our business.”

Whom to follow?

“You get what you follow,” says Dave. Find and follow quality tweeps — thought leaders, press, policymakers and their staff, members, prospective partners, and your peers. Use Twitter lists to organize the flow of tweets.

How to manage?

“One, you need to have two 22” monitors — one for social media and one for work,” says Dave. Because most people are drawn to association work because of the extreme variety of tasks and issues, he says that shuffling back and forth between social and work should be a natural for the ADD set. I had never thought of us in that way, but I think he has a point.

“Two, find your social media primetime.” For Dave, it’s first thing in morning, especially on Mondays, when people catch up and post updates before settling into work. He also likes to check in at lunch and at the end of the work day. “Understand the peaks and valleys. There’s no use posting business stuff at 8 p.m. on a weekend when no one’s there.”

“Social media is optional and so is being relevant.”

Dave says, “If you’re not doing social media, you’re not being relevant to a large part of your membership. You can’t afford not to do it.”

“I wish everyone had to be on Twitter and think in 140 characters. I enjoy it. It keeps me fresh as a professional, and keeps me in touch with younger members who are going to be our future.”

For Dave, social media is another way to connect with members. “That’s job number one,” he says. “If I walk down the hall and see someone on Facebook, they’re not penalized, they’re applauded. They’re connecting with members on a personal and business level. You have to do both. Take advantage of the blurred line.”

Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer who blurred the line many years ago.