At first glance, social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter may seem like a great way for CIOs to waste a very precious commodity: your time. Maybe you've resisted because you're worried about exposing too much of your personal life\u2014or just don't get what the big deal is. \n\nWhatever your excuse, social media has more to offer than you realize. It's time to jump in and find out.\n\n"If for nothing else, try it because you're a CIO and CIOs are supposed to be ahead of the curve when it comes to new technology," says Kirsten Dixon, online reputation management expert and coauthor of Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand. "For anyone to really see the benefits [of social media] you just have to experience it."\nTo read more on this topic, see: Nine Twitter Tips for Business and Twitter Tips: How to Safely Blend the Personal and the Professional.\n\nAchieving social media's benefits\u2014networking, collaborating, innovating, to name a few\u2014requires active participation, says Twitter user Mike Schaffner, director of IT for the Valves and \nMeasurement Group at Cameron, a provider of flow equipment products and systems. "Social media is just like real-life social activities. You won't get much out of being a wallflower."\n\nExploring several different platforms to determine which best suits your interests and goals is the best route to take, Dixon says. Be wary, however, that each platform's audience will be different, so you'll need to tailor your Internet persona accordingly. "That doesn't mean that everything you post has to be professional in nature, but everything that's personal should be tied to who you are professionally," Dixon says. "Remember that when you participate in these sites, you become searchable."\n\n\nChris Curran, CTO and partner at Diamond Management & Technology Consultants, created the "CIO Twitter Dashboard," a directory of CIOs who tweet, categorized by industry (www.ciodashboard.com\/cio-twitter-dashboard). When searching for CIOs on Twitter, an old friend turned up and he added him to his list. \n\n"I immediately got an e-mail from him saying, 'Take me off your dashboard!'" Curran recalls. "He's a poker player and only wanted to network with other poker players. So I told him to remove 'CIO' from his bio if he didn't want other CIOs searching for him." Curran recommended that he create a professional ID where he could list himself as a CIO, and use his personal account for \npersonal connections.\n\nCurran says that his participation in social media has opened doors for him. "I've been offered a few speaking engagements and have had people wanting to meet up," he says. "I now have five or 10 contacts who I'd never heard of before who are great thinkers in IT strategy and governance." \n\nAt Cameron, Schaffner has transferred his knowledge of social media to the workplace by promoting the use of internal profile pages\u2014similar to Facebook pages\u2014for each employee. He hopes to encourage employees to connect and share their areas of expertise.\n\n"Just as the Internet and e-mail created new opportunities and ways of doing business, I believe social media will do the same," Schaffner says. "Once you learn how to use this effectively\u2014either externally with customers and vendors or internally with employees\u2014I think you'll have a significant advantage over your competitors."\n\nDo you Tweet? Follow me on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO Magazine @CIOMagazine.