It comprises only 160 characters, but the Twitter bio is really important for those who want to use the site meaningfully. A good bio can not only attract good followers – it can also prompt them to engage.
A lot of people condense Twitter followers down to a numbers game. But there are countless Twitter users who have six digits of followers, and get virtually no sign of interest. If you look at the composition of these users’ ‘followings’, you’ll quickly see why their tweets fail to connect. The follow list comprises bots, marketing spam, blocks of accounts whose bio text is in a different language… It’s a characteristic picture, which instantly explains why a user with a high follower count can still get very little real attention.
Conversely, some Twitter users have a relatively small number of followers, and yet they constantly attract Likes, Retweets and Replies. Again, when you drill into their followers list, you see why. This list comprises real people, with closely matched interests. People who are engaged on the site and who pay attention to what others say. In order to attract this type of engaged, high-value follower, you must have a good bio. It’s your first line of appeal, and it enables people whose interests match yours, to recognise the fact.
However, some “red flag” mistakes not only fail to attract these good followers – they actively repel them. What sort of mistakes? Well, here are ten common ones to avoid…
OPINIONATED STATEMENTS OR RANTS
Creating a good Twitter bio is to an extent like being a politician. Success can be more about what you don’t say than what you do. Unless it’s particularly amusing, citing your pet hate may endear you to a few, but alienate you from the majority. So it’s wise to go for broad or universal appeal in your bio, and avoid negative statements. Negative statements not only put off some users directly – they also do something more damaging, and persuade larger numbers of people that you’re potentially a toxic tweep to follow.
“I hate…” = Negative person. Potentially toxic.
“I love…” = Positive person. Potentially a friend.
Your bio is you. The more negative it is, the more negative you are.
“WE / US”
Accounts that refer to themselves as “we” or “us” in their Twitter bio (as opposed to “I” or “me”) are likely to be businesses or other entities who won’t read or take an interest in other people’s tweets. They’re usually only there to promote themselves, so they don’t typically make attentive followers. “We/Us” accounts are also heavily associated with spam and/or secondhand (basically stolen) content.
Since following on Twitter is heavily based on the notion of reciprocation (i.e. we’re much less likely to follow people we don’t think will read our own tweets), an account that’s perceived as disengaged will be limited in its potential to attract high-value followers. “We / us” accounts are typically disengaged. To an extent, that disengagement comes by nature of having multiple users, ‘just doing a job’. Frequent use of automation in business or marketing accounts disengages them further.
This won’t matter so much for large, well-known businesses, because they have separate streams of publicity to attract followers. But if you’re a small business, it may be a good idea to set up your Twitter as a personal account – in the name of the boss, rather than the name of the business. Potential followers will then see themselves as connecting with a person, rather than with a PR department or, perish the thought, a spambot.
If a personal page is not an option, it would make sense to focus your bio on what you do rather than on the “we” who are running the account. Better still, unless your business is incompatible with entertainment, be entertaining in your bio. Good marketing doesn’t look like marketing – it looks like entertainment. Anything you can do to make your account look less like you’re trying to sell stuff is a positive step.
“FOLLOW / UNFOLLOW MONOLOGUES”
Okay, so if you have a discreet “I follow back” tucked in at the end of an otherwise informative or entertaining bio, it’s probably not going to do much harm, and it may even act in your favour. But if your whole bio relates to your following / unfollowing habits, discriminate users will probably consider your account to have zero value, and expect your entire output to be follow spam.
THREATS AND NEGATIVE WARNINGS
You don’t need to warn people off in your Twitter bio. Indeed, issuing a warning or threat in a Twitter bio is not just pointless – it’s damaging. The worst behaved users on Twitter are most unlikely to read or take any notice, whilst good users could easily consider you a negative person. Warnings such as “Don’t like, don’t follow!”, “I will block anyone who [does whatever]!”, etc, don’t look in any way attractive, and portray the account holder as an individual focused on problems rather than enjoyment. Perhaps even looking for problems or trouble.
Block anyone you want or need to block, but don’t waste your mere 160 characters of personal introduction space trying to warn off or threaten idiots who never read anything. Set out to attract good followers with your public messaging, and get rid of the bad ones behind the scenes.
Bio Spam is a call to action that categorises you as a potential nuisance who’s liable to use other spam tactics. Maybe you’re telling people to click a link. Maybe you’re asking them to Like your Facebook page… To buy your book… To buy Twitter followers…
Asking people to Like, consume or subscribe to your stuff before they know anything about you is a waste of valuable bio space. Worse, it creates the impression that you’re going to badger people once they do actually follow you. The result? Many will be reluctant to follow.
If you can gain people’s trust, and maintain their attention as followers, you have a lifetime to express what you’re about. You can paint a full picture of yourself and connect powerfully with ever-larger numbers of people. That’s the whole point of the Twitter system. But asking for Likes, views, listens, subscriptions and sales before other users have even hit the Follow button will destroy that trust. Anyone who’s been on Twitter for more than a few weeks is well aware of how it works. Follow the wrong person, and within seconds they’re throwing automated DMs at you, pushing spam into your notifications… It’s incredibly annoying.
So if a potential follower suspects that you’re going to spam them, they won’t follow. What quicker way to raise that suspicion, than to use your bio as a spamming medium? Bio spam is an instant way to say: “Hey; follow me and I’ll bombard you with a mass of automated ‘Check out my shit’ messages!”
The place to put an important link is in the Website field. If you’re interesting enough, people will, and indeed do, click it – without being asked.
To an extent, on-site URLs (i.e. links to your Twitter content) are acceptable in the bio. Some users who retweet a lot (particularly those who use Favstar) may add a Twitter search link to their bio, so visitors to their page can find and engage with their tweets, which would otherwise be buried under their mass of RTs. This at least means the individual is using Twitter for its own sake and not to promote products. But on the negative side, people who put Twitter search links in their bio do normally retweet heavily, so the presence of the link itself might flash up a red flag to many discriminate followers.
Pre-shortened or shrouded links (bit.ly, buff.ly, ow.ly, etc) are going to be the most offputting in a bio, and that applies in tweets and DMs too. The reason these links are offputting is:
a) They’re very heavily associated with spam, and…
b) Malicious parties typically hide their URLs behind link-shorteners, so you may be perceived as malicious.
“TURN ON MY NOTIFICATIONS”
If you want people to turn on your notifications, entertain or interest them in your bio. Saying “turn on my notifications” not only makes people less likely to turn on your notifications – it also makes high value followers much less likely to follow you in the first place. If you’re having to tell people to turn on your notifications, your output probably doesn’t have much to commend it.
“WE DO NOT OWN ANY OF THE CONTENT WE POST”
On a personal level, stop thieving, and stop trying to pretend you’re some sort of conglomerate or organisation. It does not take a group of individuals to paste other people’s work into a tweet box or find pictures on Tumblr / Google Images. Claiming to be a group of people when it’s just you re-posting stuff you found online doesn’t make you look authoritative. It just makes you look stupid. Don’t bother changing your bio – just get off the Internet. I know that sounds aggressive, but it’s the kind of esteem in which you’ll be held by a lot of Twitter users.
On a detached level, clearly, if you broadcast the fact that you’re a content thief in your Twitter bio, an awful lot of producers of original content are going to block you. Plus, in using the term “we”, you’re creating the reciprocation issues I described earlier.
Use the Retweet button if you don’t create your own content. You’ll still get attention and build a profile if you selectively theme your retweets. And you can use your own tweets for updates and information, to comment on your RTs, etc. Twitter now allows everyone to legitimately turn a retweet into an original contribution by adding a personal comment (in fact, this function was available before Twitter added it to the RT dialogue box). Using the official RT function means you can take the silly disclaimer (which has no validity as a disclaimer anyway) out of your bio, and renders you immune from complaints or DMCA notices.
This is much more a problem for men than for women, and I’ve given a full rundown of how creepy-weird works in the Twitter Creep Test post. As relates to a Twitter bio, you’re really trying to avoid creating an impression that you’re going to start sending unwanted, personal DMs, or getting sexual / possessive / over-friendly.
The biggest danger (assuming you’re not an ACTUAL creep) is normally humour. Particularly because there are so many genuine creeps on Twitter, some jokes that make fun of creepy behaviour (“Normally found doing [this amusingly creepy thing]”, for exanple) may be interpreted as serious statements by potential followers.
SOMEONE ELSE’S BIO
Anyone who wants to build a profile on Twitter will almost certainly be looking at many accounts each day. Possibly hundreds. Looking at all those accounts quickly highlights all the Twitter clichés – the popular bio entries it seems like everyone is using.
If you use a Twitter cliché in your bio, it’s therefore likely that lots of potential followers will notice that you copied someone else. Why does that matter?
Well, it might prove a bigger red flag to good and useful followers than you realise. The problem is that if you’re classed as a copycat, creative users will be suspicious that you’re going to steal their ideas, and they’ll steer clear of you. That’s bad, because creative users are a major influence on Twitter. They gain a lot of attention, so they’re exactly the people who can help you reach a wider audience when you communicate with them.
And even when someone is not worried about you copying them, if they’ve seen your Twitter bio five times elsewhere, they’re probably going to meet your account with a pretty sizeable yawn. Your bio is supposed to represent you, not someone else. Say your own thing, in your own words.
Nothing at all in your Twitter bio? Let me guess… You’re a bot, created in less than a second, by a bot that makes bots?… No?… Fair enough. But many of your potential followers will guess exactly the same as me. The majority of Twitter accounts with no bio text are either automated husks, or belong to people who are trying to cloak offputting content or goals. It makes all the sense in the world to distinguish your Twitter from those low-quality and undesirable accounts.
…AND OTHER STUFF…
There are plenty of other mistakes people make in their Twitter bio, such as writing in the third person (“The account holder is…” as opposed to “I am…“), which persuades potential followers that there’s no available attention or direct line of communication. But almost all mistakes are built on a failure to see things from the viewpoint of other Twitter users. A failure to recognise what others are looking for, why they follow accounts… A failure to see that no one is on Twitter for the benefit of your ego. It may look like they are, but that’s because of Twitter’s reciprocal culture. In massaging your ego, they’re trying to get you to massage theirs. If your bio translates to: “I will not massage your ego”, you’re severely limiting the amount of interest you can get.