Twitter is a powerhouse for networking and professional development for writers. It’s my favourite social network that I use almost every day. I have made career-changing connections through it (and had a lot of fun! 😉 )
Last week we talked about the foundation of an effective Twitter profile: choosing the right username.
Now to the bio, that 160 characters that can achieve so much, and yet drives many of us nuts. Oh, the pressure of producing a good bio!
The times people most commonly see your bio are:
- When you have followed them, and they’re deciding whether to follow you back.
- When you have mentioned them and they’re checking out who you are.
- When they are looking through possible people to follow.
They may never look at your bio again, so it’s a golden opportunity to make a good first impression!
I’m not a Twitter Bio Ninja. (I keep trying to be witty and amazing, but end up back at Provides Useful Information. Ah well. I think my problem is that I’m trying to CRAM TOO MUCH IN! 😉 )
No, I’m basing this article on 3 years on Twitter and looking at many thousands of bios and thinking about what worked and what didn’t. (Yes, I look at every bio before I follow someone.)
If you are already a Twitter Bio Ninja, you don’t need this article. But if you’re an ordinary mortal like me, here are some simple tips for creating a bio that gets the job done.
Let’s take the stress out of it.
- You can change almost anything about your Twitter profile later. Yeah, maybe some people saw it in a mess, and you may have missed an opportunity. Panic not, there’ll be plenty of other opportunities with other people.
- The purpose of your Twitter profile, first and foremost, is to COMMUNICATE. Make your bio Meaningful, and let Smart & Witty tag along if they want to.
Where do I write it?
Log in to your Twitter account.
On the top right of the screen is a little icon that looks like a cog (or possibly a sun or a flower!) Click on that and choose “Edit profile”. This is what mine looks like today, and the greyed-out numbers tell me I have 30 characters left (ooh, what could I do with them???):
You have 160 characters, including spaces. If you prefer to write offline…
- The Word Count feature in Word will tell you how many characters you’ve used. Write your bio in a new document, go to Tools > Word Count, and check the total under “Characters with spaces”. (It’s in different places in various versions, but for me it appears under Tools > Word Count. Use Help if you can’t find it.)
- Alternatively, if you have Scrivener it shows the character count at the bottom of the window. Just create a blank text file in the Binder, write in that, edit and change it, and the character count will keep updating.
What should I include?
- Please DO actually have a bio. I’ve seen profiles with no bio, and it raises a red flag for me. I know it could be because they can’t figure out what to write, but it creates two questions in my mind: 1. Are they a spammer? 2. How can I tell whether to follow back if I don’t know what their interests are?
- Everyone wonders what to mention. That’s OK. The easiest way to whittle this down is to think: What am I going to tweet about? Mention your main topics, so people will know if you’re the sort of person whose tweets they want to read. We can get sucked into playing the numbers game, but in the end we don’t want followers who aren’t actually interested, as there’ll be no engagement.
- If you’re brand new on Twitter and have no idea what you’re going to tweet about, just mention a few of your favourite topics, and come back and tweak it later when you’ve got into the groove.
- Check out other bios that you like, and analyse what they’ve included and how they’ve expressed it.
- Should you mention controversial things in your bio, like politics and religion? People debate this, but a good rule of thumb if you’re undecided is: Does it have anything to do with my writing? If it does, feel free to put it in. If not, is it important enough to lose followers over? The answer to that might be yes or it might be no. Make your own choice.
- Should you mention hobbies and kids and pets? People are divided on this too, but personally I like it. For example, I’m always chatting with people about their dogs, and I tweet photos of my own pooches. I used to think I shouldn’t do this as it was Off Topic. Then I started writing a dog book so it became On Topic and I allowed myself the luxury. Since then I’ve discovered that chatting with people about their pets is one of the best ways to get to know them, so it catches my eye in a bio. Hobbies and families and pets make us more human.
- It’s a good idea to include the word “writer” somewhere in the bio. It helps other writers know that you’ll have something in common, and as a bonus you’ll show up in searches for “writer”.
- I’d recommend NOT to say “I always follow back”. People usually mean it to sound friendly, but it can attract a lot of spammy followers who are only looking for that word combination, so they can use you to build their numbers without engagement. If your Following and Followers numbers are close, people can see that you usually follow back.
- You don’t need to write complete sentences. In fact, most bios I’ve seen that do this look odd (a few succeed). You’ve got 160 characters. I wouldn’t waste any on “I am a…”. (That’s 6 characters down the drain!)
- You don’t have to use all 160 characters if you don’t want to.
- Use punctuation to make it more readable, as a string of words can be confusing. Some put commas between their different interests, some put full stops (periods), some use dashes and other symbols. Whatever your preference, think about whether it’s going to be easy to read.
- Beware of weird symbols replacing English letters, and/or lots of hashtags. (Hashtags turn funny colours in different readers.) They can hinder communication.
- Just a thought: I personally wouldn’t use a hashtag in a bio at all. To me it tends to come across as “desperate to be found in a search” rather than “interested to meet you as a real person”. Others disagree, so make your own choice.
What do you think? Have you seen any great bios? What puts you off? Let’s chat about your experience with WRITING and READING Twitter bios.
Featured image via Bigstock/soulxray