There’s one major misstep many young professionals make when building a brand: inconsistency. Your personal brand isn’t just a costume you put on in the morning and take off when you get home. It’s a way of being. Everything you say and do at work, around members of your network, and online influences how you and your brand are perceived.

Let me repeat: Everything you do online influences how you and your brand are perceived. Your social media and forum posts, your texts, your emails—it all counts. Which means you can use your digital presence to help build your brand—or to tear it down.

Think about how closely a marketing team manages a company’s messaging. Marketers craft a brand’s social media calendar weeks ahead of time, and when a situation arises that demands a quick post, there is often an approval flow that social copy must move through before it hits the internet. For some brands, this approach has resulted in a well-crafted image that helps drive customer engagement. Consider MoonPie, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The hundred-plus-year-old company has garnered a lot of social media attention for a Twitter account that is deeply rooted in millennial and Gen Z humor, makes intelligent use of well-known internet tropes, and never takes itself very seriously. In fact, MoonPie hired an agency to specifically handle social media, and in doing so, it has boosted sales and awareness for a brand that has otherwise changed little in the last century.

Conversely, those that ignore their online branding, even for a day, court disaster. For example, the dating app Tinder made headlines when it was cited as a contributing factor in the rise of hookup culture. When the journalist who wrote the article tweeted a particularly damning statistic—that 30% of Tinder users are married—the app’s social media account erupted, sending a barrage of angry tweets to the journalist and thereby drawing more attention to an already negative public relations situation. Other Twitter users piled on Tinder; journalists picked up the tweetstorm and generally mocked the brand; and, as of this writing, Tinder has yet to completely shed its image as a hookup facilitation app.

I bring up these examples not to praise one brand or excoriate another but to demonstrate how brands that pour money into marketing and social media are affected by their online branding. The same is true for your personal brand. It’s not enough to put an opinion disclaimer in your Twitter bio. You need to be thoughtful about all your messaging and ensure that, at the very least, it’s always aligned with your traits. Beyond that, social media can be extremely useful for building and leveraging your brand outside your place of work. As you get ready to post that next photo or comment on someone’s story, ask yourself:

Is this post consistent with the traits I have set for myself?

Will this post move me closer to my brand goals or set me back?

Am I engaging with others out of emotion, or do I really have something useful to contribute to the conversation?

Am I engaging with the right individuals and organizations online?

How can I be both visible and valuable within my online network? Can I help connect people or like foster dynamic discussion?

Am I demonstrating my expertise and skill set effectively?

Do I need to scrub older posts that are not aligned with my branding strategy?

How can I use social media to build a narrative, connecting my past accomplishments to my current engagements and future plans?

Let’s be honest—you won’t always use social media for brand building. Sometimes you’ll just want to have fun, and that’s perfectly fine. But even if you’re not actively advancing your personal brand on your social platform of choice, your words will be perceived as part of it. It’s simple: if your personal brand is important to you, avoid whatever might erase the hard work you’ve put into creating it.

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