Five Tips for Composing a More Effective Social Networking Bio

Is yours saying what you really want to say?

I’m a member of several social networking services: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Flickr, Yahoo Groups, etc.

All social networks have the same idea when it comes to setting up your account. You provide information about yourself in a “bio.” The maximum length of a bio can vary from site to site. Twitter, on the low end, allows only 160 characters. LinkedIn has no maximum length. Other services fit in between.

Your bio is your primary way to tell people who don’t know you what you’re all about. If they’re heard about you from someone else or stumbled upon one of your Twitter tweets or Facebook wall posts, they might be interested in learning more. They might even want to become your . . . wait for it . . . friend.

Whatever.

The point is, they’ll start with your bio to learn more about you, so it’s in your best interest to create a good one.

Here are some tips for creating an online bio for social networking:

  • Be brief. This is required on Twitter, which allows only 160 characters. As such, you’ll need to keep the text tight and specific. Lists usually work well here. Even if the service allows longer bios, don’t get carried away. Start off with the basics — the “must-know” info about you. Then expand in additional paragraphs. Nobody is going to slog through hundreds of words just to decide whether you’re someone they want to follow or be friends with.
  • Be accurate. Include the things that are important to you, keeping in mind the audience of the social networking service. The things you put on a Twitter or Facebook bio are likely to be very different from the ones you put in a LinkedIn bio, since the services are set up for different purposes. Don’t make stuff up. If you have to make up things about who you are, you really need to step away from the computer and get a life.
  • Be meaningful. Sure, lots of folks think it’s cute or cool to have a one-line bio with some spiffy saying, possibly snatched from a punch line in a movie. If a movie-one liner describes you to a stranger, I’m impressed by the shallowness of your character. The folks I want to know tend to be a bit deeper.
  • Be aware of turn-off words. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be friends with anyone who is a self-proclaimed guru or expert. These are words that other people should apply to you — not words you apply to yourself. Other turn-off words vary from person to person. If you are a woman and describe yourself as “sexy,” a heterosexual woman like me is not going to be impressed. But a teenaged boy or a lesbian might.
  • Be aware of providing too much personal information. Do we need to know that you’re rebuilding your life after a divorce? Or that you’re a recovered alcoholic? And while you might be proud to be a “Christ follower,” when you include that in your bio, you shouldn’t expect to make many friends with people who aren’t fundamentalist Christians or not religious at all.

Learn it all.Think of your bio as bait on a fishing line. Who will it attract? But, at the same time, how many people will ultimately be disappointed by the mismatch between what your bio says about you and who you really are?

What do you like or hate about things people put in their social networking bios? Use the comments for this post to share your thoughts.

11 thoughts on “Five Tips for Composing a More Effective Social Networking Bio

  1. sooo true.

    I wish the site you listed above, would give us more of an option to describe ourselves, especially twitter.

    besides that, I love your tips…

    thank you

  2. I’m no “guru” but I say plant your stake in the ground and tell us what you stand for – I think “Christ-Follower” clearly helps me decide if I want to follow you or not. No ambiguity there. Don’t try to please everyone by being nothing. I’m looking for a community of like-minded people. Social Entrepreneurs and World Changers wanted…..

  3. Brian, I guess I don’t understand. You said:

    I think “Christ-Follower” clearly helps me decide if I want to follow you or not. No ambiguity there.

    Does that mean you do or don’t follow people who put “Christ follower” in their bios?

    If you do, is it because you’re trying to find religious connections in social network? Or if you don’t, is it because you’re trying to avoid them?

    Also, you said:

    Don’t try to please everyone by being nothing.

    I don’t think I’m suggesting that you leave your bio ambiguous. In fact, I think I was pretty clear that you shouldn’t do that. I’m also not suggesting that a bio attempt to “please everyone.” On the contrary: it should provide information about what you’re all about. If you’re all about following Christ, for example, well I guess putting “Christ follower” in there is a good idea.

    Just don’t expect people who aren’t looking for that kind of connection to follow you.

    And although I know God has a Twitter account, I didn’t realize Christ did. ;-)

  4. I’m concerned now because @cottageguru is my twitter name. It was a name applied to me by a newspaper after an interview about the vacation rental properties I owned and the book I wrote about it. I thought it was catchy and have used it ever since. In my particular field I guess I am known as an expert but don’t want to put people off by ‘self-proclaiming’ it. Are you referring more to the internet ‘gurus’, or is this a general guru thing?

    I’m always turned off by people listing their religion and political persuasion but that’s because I was brought up in the belief those subjects are best kept private. If those folks are only looking for followers or friends who they feel are compatible with their beliefs it’s probably OK.

    Heather´s last blog post: Is The Welcome Mat Out for Your Vacation Rental Guests?

  5. Heather, this is my opinion. It isn’t a rule. Other people obviously like the word “guru” because they use it.

    I just think that if someone calls himself a “guru,” “expert,” “maven” (saw that one today), etc., it shows that he’s insecure about his expertise in an area and has to assure others that he’s tops in his field.

    I’d rather not be told. I’d rather make my own judgments about a person’s expertise based on what he says or writes or advises others.

    Of course, if “guru” is part of your company name, it would be pretty silly to change it just for social networking. (But I wouldn’t make it part of my company name, either.)

    Just my opinion. Take it with a grain of salt.

  6. Maria – Thank you for responding to my post. I follow all types of people because I am interested in many different perspectives. Ultimately I am more interested in what people have in common rather than their differences.

    Some of the most interesting people I follow do have some of the most controversial user names and bios. “Christ-Follower” would catch my attention, but I would read some of your posts before making a decision to follow. The more “polarizing” the bio, the more conviction I would anticipate from the author -that’s all.

    Your list was great, I just wanted to add my two-cents worth…..

    I don’t know if Christ twitters, but if God does, then I suppose Christ does as well, think Trinity….

    Keep up the good work,

    BD

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