Maturity on social media sites distinguish the likes of Justin Timberlake from Justin Bieber. But it’s not just celebrities who need to manage their online presence. Here’s how to keep it all in check.

Thanks to the overwhelming influence of the internet, everybody in 2014 is now growing up in the public eye. It’s such a seismic change that it’s hard to believe that this is still a relatively recent phenomenon–YouTube is only 9 years old, while Facebook just celebrated its 10th anniversary.

Facebook marked their anniversary in a way that really brought home this point. The social-networking giant surprised all its long-time users with special personalized Facebook videos, which captured the high points of users’ Facebook posts over the years.

Whether you gave the move a thumbs up or thumbs down, there’s no denying that watching your own Facebook film makes you keenly aware that people who barely know you are now able to track your life as closely as you do–and make their own conclusions about you as a result.

When we watch celebrities grow up on the public stage, we inevitably end up making lasting judgments about them as people. Justin Timberlake ends up being admired for his class, professionalism, and talent, while Justin Bieber is condemned for his public rudeness and repeated run-ins with the law. Those long-term verdicts are very hard to shake.

That can’t help but be a huge issue when it comes to your own personal branding. Through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other online sites, it’s not just friends and family that are able to track your highs and lows over the years. Current and potential professional power players also have access to your life story, just as if you were one of the Justins. And some even demand that you perform online at a certain level if you want to be a part of their organizations; one company actually advertised for salespeople who had a Klout score above 35!

As The New Yorker put it in their 2013 article, “You Are What You Tweet.” The article suggests that what we present online is presumed to meaningfully represent who we are. So when we post baby pictures on Facebook, we’re presenting ourselves as proud parents. And when we flaunt our extravagant vacation photos, we’re attesting to the value we place in luxury.

So, how do you make sure you’re more Timberlake than Bieber? How do you create a timeline that draws an audience and impresses potential clients? Here are a few important tips to take on board whenever you’re posting online:

Make Social Media a Must

For those of you who believe you don’t need a strong online presence to be successful, we’d like to quote Tom Peters, the man who coined the term “personal branding.” Peters wrote in 2004, “When I first wrote about [personal branding] in the summer of 1997, it was cool. But now it’s necessary. Ain’t no choice, bro.”

Even though he said that before social media had really made its mark, it’s now truer than ever. A recent study shows that 78% of those who did business through social media outperformed those who didn’t.

When you’re trying to build your network or close a sale, there is no question that people will look to Google, as well as social media sites, to find out if you’re trustworthy and have a good reputation. That’s why you always need to keep your awards, accomplishments, and current activities up-to-date across the board.

Be More than a Marketer

In movies and scripted TV shows, the main character’s backstory will make all the difference as to whether or not viewers like what they’re watching. For instance, Walter White was a murderous drug dealer on the hit show Breaking Bad. We never would have engaged with him if he hadn’t been diagnosed with terminal cancer on the very first episode and began his criminal efforts to provide for his family.

So what’s your backstory? Do you regularly post photos and videos of your family activities? Do you talk about your interests and your passions? Would someone “like” your Facebook movie? Hopefully, the answer to all those questions is “yes.” Strive to be more than your business in your virtual life–because people buy people, and if they buy you, they’ll probably buy from you.

Stand Out and Stand Tall

Think about the people you like to track on social media. Now go one step further and think about why you like to check out their posts and statuses. Is it because they’re funny? Are they always doing interesting things? Do they consistently share important information that you feel is useful? Do you relate to them somehow? The odds are it’s a combination of a few of the factors.

With all that in mind, seek ways to showcase your personality as well as your expertise in unique and engaging ways that will attract social media users. Find ways to do something daily that your followers can look forward to. For example, one of our clients posts an outrageous photo on Facebook every morning and relates it back to his business. It’s easy to do–and it always draws a crowd.

Participate and Pitch in

Finally, remember that it’s called social media–in other words, this isn’t supposed to be a one-way conversation with you talking and everybody else listening. To really improve your social media engagement levels, you need to listen to others and contribute to conversations when you have something to offer, whether it’s just a witty remark or a substantive contribution that demonstrates your expertise. The more you connect, the more people will engage with you. Their friends will, in turn, be exposed to your influence and possibly become one of your followers as well.

In 2014, your social media activities should be as much of a daily business must as answering important emails or returning calls. Remember, you’re not wasting time when you tweet or post–you’re building a long-term image of yourself that can easily become the most powerful part of your celebrity brand.

JW Dicks (@jwdicks) and Nick Nanton (@nicknanton) are best-selling authors who consult for small- and medium-size businesses on how to build their business through personality-driven marketing, personal-brand positioning, guaranteed media, and mining hidden business assets. They offer free articles, white papers, and case studies at

from Fast Company

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