For many individuals, Facebook is a way to connect with friends and family, and possibly play a few games. For professional marketers, Facebook is a way to grow the brand, nurture a community of interest, and possibly sell. But for senior leaders, Facebook might have an even more important role — and one that is too often neglected.

Some may argue that leaders should not be on Facebook for reasons of privacy or efficiency, but with the tipping point long passed, this argument is silly. In addition, it makes sense to be on Facebook if only for defensive reasons: Nonparticipation opens the leader to considerable risks.

It is too easy for someone to create a "fake" profile that is 90 percent accurate except for several phony (and embarrassing) details. It is also too easy for a user to mistake someone else with your exact name for you. What if someone is considering you for a position or a board position, but is alarmed by something they see on this doppelganger profile?

Beyond the negative, there are three key reasons to create a profile:

  • 1. It is yet another leadership communication channel.
  • 2. People can get a glimpse at the "you" beyond the job. They will have context to how you think.
  • 3. It humanizes you. You're more than just a title and have the same personal wins (and concerns) as any "normal" person within the organization.

With all this being said, there are couple of key aspects to using Facebook as a leadership tool.

Watch for the creep-out factor and respect others' privacy. Just because you can look at others' profiles doesn't mean that you must act or react. There is a tacit social contract not to "creep out" others especially when you are in a leadership position. On the other hand, showing interest in a person's accomplishments can be highly motivating when done with sensitivity.

Remember to monitor and manage your profile since it is semi-public. This means being cognizant that there are several different audiences beyond friends and family, including employees, members, job candidates, investors, the media and more.

Each of these groups (and others) will scrutinize your posts, comments, likes and other people's comments on your timeline. Govern your actions accordingly, as users' reactions to what appears on your Facebook timeline will have a direct impact on your effectiveness as a leader.

This week's action plan: If you aren't yet on Facebook yet, find a person in your organization to be your mentor. If you do use the platform, look at your profile from the perspective of each of your professional audiences: What would the media think? What would the board think? What would a typical staff person think? If you are a bit uncomfortable with your answers, then spend time this week updating (or cleansing?) your profile for these groups as well.