Your first impression matters a lot. Online and offline.

Last Friday, I went to an international networking event, where I met a lot of new and familiar faces. Suddenly, someone approached me and said: “Hey, I think I know you!”

“Really? How?”

“I think we’re taking the same train to work. The 7.38 AM train to Eindhoven, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, you’re right!” After that, two people I already met joined the conversation. They were really curious how a Jelle at 7.38 AM behaves.

“Can I be honest?” After I gave the green light, he illustrated how I always, straight-faced, embark the train, take a seat, and stare into the abyss and do nothing for 20 minutes until I disembark at Best (yes, there’s a train station called Best).

Me and the other two laughed. I knew how right he was. The other two, however, were trying to imagine how an emotionless, grumpy, scowl-faced Jelle at 7.38 AM looks like. It’s because they only knew me as the energetic, out-going extravert.

I found the situation really funny — and I’ll try to use my matinee smile more often. Because this situation also made me realize something:

Your first impression, the way you present yourself to others, both verbally and non-verbally. They matter a lot. The people I mentioned all had different thoughts about me because of the various ways in which I appeared, talked, and behaved during the times they saw me.

When building an online brand — whether personal or professional — your first impression matters just as much. Once people get in touch with your brand for the first time, they will quickly judge who you are by looking at your profile picture, your header, and your most popular (or pinned) post.

It really takes people seconds to make a judgement about you.

So when building your brand, carefully consider how you want others to perceive you, and work on the things that make your first impression a memorable one (in a positive way).

So today, I tried to put on a smile on my face more often when commuting from and to work. Just in case. Who knows who I meet during the next networking event! And don’t forget: with a smile on your face (or some positive words online), you can make a random individual’s day.