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! 😉 )
We have 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.)
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.)
>>>[Currently updating this post after 11 years on Twitter! Am pleased to discover that it all still applies.)
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. It may be easiest to do this task on your computer, if possible.
Click on your profile and look for the big “edit profile” button.
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:
- Are they a spammer?
- 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, will the way you talk about it open or close communication with those who hold other views? Of course, always 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 tweet about anything non-writing as it was Off Topic. Then I started writing a dog book so my dog 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.
- [2022 edit: and now I even mention my love for dogs in my bio!]
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. They follow you, you follow back, and then they unfollow you (known as “follower churn”).
- If your Following and Followers numbers are close, people can see that you usually follow back, if that worries them.
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 different 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 “I want to be found in a search” rather than “I want to meet you as a real person”. Others disagree, so make your own choice.
There is a LOCATION slot on your bio, and I do recommend you use it, if possible.
- A location adds another level of interest for readers of your bio, and helps them understand in a cultural context some of the statements you might make or questions you might ask.
- Privacy and safety concerns come first, obviously.
- You will be meeting people from all over the world, so don’t assume they know where you live. Where you live might be mundane to you, but very interesting to them.
- If you describe where you live using a special name known only to people who live in that area, you might catch the attention of locals… but put off others who are confused by it. Perhaps you could use both the special name AND a widely-known name? Your choice, of course.
- If you live in a tiny town, you might want to mention a state or region instead. Likewise, if you have particular privacy concerns of any kind whatsoever, make your own choice about whether or not to mention location.
I always use a photo of me – basically my author headshot.
- I want to be friendly and meet humans, so that works for me.
- I use the same headshot on all social networks so that people can recognise me if they see me elsewhere online.
- Use whatever picture you like and feel comfortable with.
This is a very important marketing opportunity, so I recommend you grab it!
- Don’t make people hunt for your website.
- I have several websites, but currently my Twitter profile shows this website you are on now.
- I have a special landing page that I use on Instagram which connects to all my websites and introduces me. I’m thinking I might create one of those for my Twitter profile, too. Here is a link to my Instagram landing page if you want to harvest any ideas.
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
The Orlando Gray says
Would you mind…. critiquing my Twitter bio? you can look at it here: https://twitter.com/TheOrlandoGray
Laura Zera says
I think you’re spot on with your recommendations, Belinda. I get suspicious when people say “I always follow back,” it’s like saying “I’m a sure thing, the relationship doesn’t matter.” And I dislike hashtags in bios, too. Maybe one, two max is fine, but some bios are all hashtags. I do wish that Twitter would up the character count to 180 or 200.
Belinda Pollard says
Laura, could we lobby for more characters in the bio do you think?? Mind you, I’m astonished to realise I’ve left 30 characters going begging. As soon as I’ve got time, I’m going to address that!
Is it realise or realize?
Belinda Pollard says
Depends where you are, Steve. In Australia, it’s generally realise. In the USA, it’s generally realize.