June 24, 2014 | Emily Winsauer

A Cynic’s Guide to Writing a Twitter Bio

I’m usually an upbeat, enthusiastic person, but researching this post brought out my inner cynic in a big way.

Is that really such a surprise? Most advice on writing a Twitter bio centers on showing off your individuality and complexity in just the right way to get more Twitter followers.

If you read 15-20 blog posts on that topic, you can start to feel a little icky about social media and humanity in general. 

Emily Winsauer Twitter

When I sat down to write, I started with this: “Twitter bios are a form of self-worship.” Well, that may be a little harsh.

The New York Times famously referred to the Twitter bio as “a postmodern art form,” but in the same article, author Teddy Wayne calls them “adult-yearbook quotations.”

I humbly submit that they are both, and there’s nothing (much) wrong with that.

It’s true that your bio is a big part of why people choose to follow you, whether or not that’s your goal.

Of course, if you’re using Twitter for business, connecting with people and engaging with them is the whole point. Who you are and what you do is important, as is earning the attention of the followers you want to engage with.

Why do you follow people on Twitter? Because they share content you want in a way that appeals to you, right?

So, write your Twitter bio (like all of your content) with your buyer personas in mind, and make sure you’re clear about the value you offer.

Your bio should reflect what you tweet about.

So you’re an “Introvert. Hardcore entrepreneur. Certified creator. Evil bacon evangelist. Pop culture enthusiast. Avid music fan. Passionate TV geek.” (Thanks, Twitter Bio Generator). Great—I like music too. What is it you do, now?

It sounds like a no-brainer, but a lot of Twitter bios don’t let you know what kind of content to expect.

This particularly important for business Twitter accounts, whether for a company or an individual. It doesn’t have to be explicit – “I tweet about content marketing” – but people are less likely to follow you if they don’t know what they’re getting.

Twitter Small Biz  Demonstrate your value.

Telling people what you offer goes hand-in-hand with demonstrating why people should care. Unsurprisingly, @twittersmallbiz does a great job of this.

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but who you are is not as interesting or relatable as what you contribute.

Your friends and family love you for who you are; your customers love you for what you do for them. 

Everybody loves humor, even in business.

Stephen Lockwood Twitter Content and social media marketing have led to a rising expectation that businesses have a personality or “voice,” and using a playful or humorous tone is one of the best ways to connect with your audience.

North Carolina-based “strategic designer” Stephen Lockwood has one of my all-time favorite Twitter bios. It expresses what he does, and it makes me giggle.

If humor is inappropriate for your organization, a more general rule of thumb would be to show your institutional personality in a way that appeals to your social audience.

Each of the examples below appeals to its buyer persona in a different way, using the Twitter bio as the primary tool.

Which one is most compelling to you? Do you think they succeeded?

National Review Twitter American Cancer Society Twitter
Habitat for Humanity Twitter The Daily Beast Twitter

Use tags and hashtags carefully, if at all.

Casey Owens Twitter There are strong opinions on both sides of this debate; our own Casey Owens swears by using hashtags in his Twitter bio (and he has 798 followers as of now), while I tend to cringe when I see too many links in a Twitter bio.

Whatever you choose, keep in mind that tags and hashtags are both clickable, and may distract the reader or draw them away from your profile.

That may not be so bad if you use a tag to link to your other Twitter account, but you have no ownership of hashtags. They may help someone find you, but they may also distract your potential audience and link them elsewhere.

Avoid Twitter bio clichés.

There are a number of websites mocking the clichés that so frequently appear in Twitter bios; rather than giving you examples, I’ll let these three sites convince you:

Have a good idea? Ignore the rules.

Finally, if there’s something great you want to try, go for it. It’s not only celebrities who can get away with clever, compelling one-liners – Twitter is a good place to test out something innovative.

Stephanie Smith Twitter My friend, photographer Steph Smith, didn’t use any hashtags or keywords to promote her business, but chose to make her profession clear with her profile and cover images. I think her brilliant one-sentence bio does more to appeal to potential clients than a longer, more descriptive one ever could.

Well, there you go. For a post with the word "cynic" in the title, I think I ended on a pretty optimistic note.

Good luck writing your postmodern adult yearbook quotes, people!

Once you have a killer bio, make sure the rest of your Twitter profile looks professional, too.

Social Media Image Sizes Guide and Templates

Emily Winsauer

Emily Winsauer

As VIEO's content director, Emily Winsauer is responsible for content strategy for VIEO and our clients. She works with the content team to create a wide range of compelling content designed to help our clients better connect with their customers.

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