You can tweet yourself silly, but without a great Twitter bio, you’re selling yourself short. While tweets are limited to 140 characters, Twitter bios offer 160. Use them!
According to Inside Higher Education:
“A bio on Twitter has so much potential to concisely share the spirit and zest of a place. Everyone gets the same 160 characters on Twitter to make their bio interesting to a potential follower.”
A co-worker recently asked me to help rewrite a few of these blurbs for our university. Naturally, I started by scavenging. How are our competitors getting the biggest bang for their Twitter-bio buck? What about the sexier, non-higher-ed side? How do big brands like The North Face and Nike, celebrities, even fictional characters (Yoda’s is fun) make the most of their bios?
While most of the higher-ed Twitter bios we looked at were somewhat less than inspired, a few nailed it. Big shout-out to the University of Michigan!
Based on what we found, here – in a not-quite-tweetable nutshell – are some ideas for boosting your own bio:
- Space is precious. Don’t waste it. Resist the urge to say you’re “official” and repeat your name and website. They’re already there.
- Know yourself. Really think about who you are, what you’re offering, and who you want to connect with. Decide what makes you special and let your followers know!
- Words matter. Use language that’s punchy, snappy, catchy. Choose words that “pop” (I know, what does that mean?). Try short action words or alliteration, ask a question, use humor, whatever you’re comfortable with; just get your audience engaged and attract some attention.
- Strategy is key. One winning combination includes a mission statement, payoff, and call to action. In other words, your Twitter bio should tell followers who you are, what you can do for them, and what they can do for you.
- Connections count. It’s called social media for a reason. Use keywords people might use to find you. Include hashtags that link to relevant larger conversations you want to get in on. If you’re part of a university, consider adding the handle of the main university account.
Sometimes it’s hard to take advice and cash it in for actual results. If you need a literal step-by-step method for creating your Twitter bio, this part is for you.
We were so inspired by the University of Michigan’s Twitter bio, we created a “Twitter Trio,” if you will. It’s a three-step model for developing awesome Twitter bios.
Notice that @UMich doesn’t waste any space by saying they’re “official” or repeating their name. Instead, they tell us what they can do for us (turn us into “Victors”), what they want us to do for them (enroll at their school), and who they are (a world-renowned public institution). They also do a good job of connecting through hashtags. Plus, they get bonus points for including that funky yellow “M.” How did they do that?!
So, how do you decide how to maneuver through each of these steps? Here are a few ways to drill down to the stuff you’re made of.
First, think about your brand promise. If you don’t have one, it’s time to come up with one! What makes you or your organization stand out? Are there specific groups of people you want to reach – Boy Scouts, Barbie doll collectors, potential college students? Convince them that their lives would be more fulfilling with you on their side. What do you do better than anyone else? Does your factory make gum that blows bigger bubbles than any other brand? Does your auto shop specialize in Lamborghinis? Does your pet-grooming business hold a “Top Dog Contest?” You get the idea.
Second, decide on a call to action. What do you want your clients, customers, or followers to do? What words can you use to coax them into doing it? You don’t have to spell it out – “Please buy my product! Pretty please!” Think about what types of messages and what tones of voice work best for your particular clientele. Get creative. Pose a challenge. The folks at the bubblegum factory might tempt you to “pop” in for a tour. The Lamborghini shop might ask potential customers to take them for a test drive.
Third, think about this: who are you? Whether you’re a person or an organization, consider all the components of your complex personality. Brainstorm the best words to describe you, as well as your audience, your peer institutions, and whoever else you’d like to connect with. Toss everything out there. Don’t hold back. Now, take your awesome collection of words and think in terms of hashtags, keywords, connecting, and work on whittling down the list. The pet groomers might want to target fans of #dogsoftwitter. Lamborghini might connect with people looking for a #newcar.
Leading by Example
We used this model to take a stab at reworking our own University of Mary Washington Twitter bio.
Looks like we’d been guilty of some of the ultimate offenses – using the word “official,” repeating our name. Yikes! We took those out and stopped telling followers who maintains our account because, frankly, we’re pretty sure they don’t care.
We tried to grab attention with a question and use hashtags to connect to our tag line, local community, and the larger world of higher education. And we worked to choose our words strategically and make the most of our 160 characters. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
How will you rework your Twitter bio?
Our campus has already taken up the Twitter Trio to revamp department and student organization Twitter bios. Take a look!
Will you try the Twitter trio?
Lisa Chinn Marvashti is a writer, editor, and marketing professional at the University of Mary Washington. When she isn’t being dragged into the world of social media by much younger co-workers, she loves to write about the amazing students, faculty, and alumni who call UMW home.