About yourself in 160 characters or less
A Twitter Bio shows up in the header of a Profile view, and would be encountered, alongside name and avatar, when browsing a list of Twitterati; both placements make them key for conversion.
In crafting a Twitter Bio users can enter any text, including hypertext. This leaves many choices of content, tone, link strategy and so on: straightforward, ironic, informative, inspirational, cryptic, humourous or even empty, which do you need?
I thought I’d take a look at accounts whose approach to this problem I like, chosen from an opportunistic trawl through my network. My inclusion criteria were broad, as I wanted to find emergent patterns, but my choices needed to stand out, whether for their economy or something more unusual. Extra marks were awarded for good use of hypertext.
@MrsSteveOBrien, freelance writer and DVD extra talking-head, tweets with a bawdy and ironic sense of humour and a strong sense of parody and subversion of Twitter and it’s conventions. His current Bio reflects this in a rather self-effacing manner, an ironic version of the ‘Resume’ approach we’ll get to later.
Some twitterati like to leave their Bio empty. This strategy usually implies a willful humility, or even shyness, really a sort of extremist minimalism, and is one way of standing out from the crowd. Sometimes a lack can be deployed with more ironic effect. @moxie‘s empty Bio for example might refer to his specialisms in software that seeks to boost security and privacy online. The prize for equally ironic, but funnier use of this twitter trope goes however to @MrTeller
Keep It Simple, See?
The less extreme minimalist approach aims for a brief, usually professional statement of identity. @j0bates manages to take this approach while subtly communicating a sophisticated Internet literacy (note the space between the @ character and the next: Jo is using a concise modern idiom while avoiding triggering Twitter’s @ taxonomy making an accidental link, to @University).
The simple approach can be enlivened by other twists. Writer Keith Temple’s twitter Bio lists his many professional accomplishments neatly with one word apiece, but reserves six words for a childhood experience, and the effect is charming.
Part of the Web’s much-lauded democratising effect (older readers may remember this was a popular theory some years ago) may lie in giving people tools to describe their identity for themselves, ‘unfiltered’ and ‘unmediated’. The incredible Chuck D, pictured here in Twitter profile form with the Public Enemy profile (itself keeping it simple, but as a network hub), gives a simple statement of roles presumably he defines for himself, as opposed to a record label or manager.
An extension of the KISS approach above, a Résumé stye Bio might give various identity statements, roles and positions, often using hypertext to situate activity in a network of relationships. Other information like interests and family relationships may also be present.
Both @t and @PhilBeardmore deploy numerous links. They add value in two ways: @t puts his links (all in-Twitter links) under categories, themselves doubling as in-Twitter links, organised in human-readable fashion using sophisticated punctuation, finishing off with a #tag slogan #fightfortheusers; Phil takes a simpler approach while reserving the most words for family. Phil also gives a one word indication of political views and finishes off with an external link.
Kalpana Peigne uses a similar form in straightforward manner, opting not to use hyperlinks – although the dedicated links section of her profile does include a link to a Linkedin profile. The Résumé form can also hold more ‘social’, as opposed to ‘work-related’ content: witness Cath’s Bio, which I like because it’s information rich while also communicating humour and personality.
The pithy comment
Funny one this. A brief comment is sometimes all that’s required but can be cryptic, illuminating, or anything in between. Here’s two examples that illustrate different approaches. Note Anya’s use of a special character, and Kernal Panic’s fairly restrained use of punctuation for pure decoration.
Just good writing
There’s no doubt the innovation of hypertext+internet (i.e., the web) changed the very meaning and parameters of writing as an art and science, to a seismic effect certainly comparable to the printing press, perhaps even more fundamental. That said there’s something to be said for the craft of unadorned good writing, and a Twitter profile is no excuse not to try.
My pick of this approach is the Freud Museum of London, who write a deceptively simple but well crafted précis of what they are and do.
I like this Bio because it elegantly info-dumps who Sigmund and Anna Freud were, and that this was their ‘final home’, before efficiently listing the variety of services offered by the museum. Saving the Bio from excessive dryness of tone, the word ‘extraordinary’ sneaks in attached to the Freud ‘home’, to tantalising effect. In this case, linking any of this text would probably be redundant overkill, undermining the impact of effective short prose.
There had to be one. For all round quality, one twitter Bio stood out for me, as it combines several approaches in one: the inspirational quote (a trope we’ve not covered here), irony, the pithy comment, keeps it simple, is a little bit silly, but with a touch of quality. From an account tweeting the King James Bible, the celebrated 17th Century English translation, this twitter Bio seems irresistible:
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Oh, and you can see my Twitter Bio @kjmobb.