9 steps to write a great bio – short and sweet characters

write a great bio - the myndset digital strategyDo you think you could have a better bio? I’m talking about the little blurb that you use to define your presence on various online networks. How to write a great bio isn’t a question we regularly discuss at work, much less at the family dinner table. And yet, I would argue that most of us should probably be a lot more attentive to our bio than we currently are. Having a well-worked bio is an essential part of your online reputation. Ask yourself:

  • How strong is your bio?
  • Does your bio, in 160 characters, accurately reflect you?
  • Is your bio consistent across the web?
  • Does it make you stand out?

The bio is yesteryear’s CV

Just recently, I was asked to send an organization my CV — yes, the good old-fashioned curriculum vitae, albeit as an attachment via email. Some of you might remember when we used to have to send them via the post. In today’s fast-paced and low-attention spanning world, the request for my CV was somewhat surprising, especially since it was to speak at a high-tech event (in China). Anyway, I took the cobwebs off and updated it. I doubt anyone will read it thoroughly, though. In today’s world, I would suggest that anyone asking for a heavily curated, historical and rather long document like a CV is in serious need of updating themselves. Without stating the obvious existence of Linkedin, Xing or Viadeo (Tianji in China), the lack of social proof in a CV feels absolutely inauthentic, almost artificial. Not that everything you write on LinkedIn is necessarily the gospel truth, but your LinkedIn profile — along with the recommendations and the crowd-sourced skills — stands out there in the public domain for all to see and the chances of getting called on an errant fact are rather large.

The healthy bio

write a great bio - the myndset digital strategyOne of the challenges with your bio is that it exists on multiple sites, at different times and in different sizes. One size does not fit all. Whereas in the olden days, you might have had a one-page and two-page version of your CV, the bio is de rigueur on basically all social media sites and comes in all shapes and sizes. Doing an audit of my own bios, in preparation for this post, I realized that I had a number of bios out there that needed updating. The problem is that there is no easy way to view all your bios. It basically requires trolling through all your online profiles singly. A good starting point is to Google yourself (not to snob Bing), and you can also try a few other services that have a person search function, such as PPFinder or Qwant.

The bio character limitation

Taking a look at the top social networks and sites, the range goes from 40 characters to unlimited (with some that don’t give you the option at all). When the option exists, the median length (in this list) is 160 characters. Here is a current list of the space limitations (in alphabetical order) for you to get your “short biography” across:

  • Facebook – 155 characters (for the “fan page” overview)
  • Google+ – Unlimited (your story)
  • Instagram – 150 characters
  • LinkedIn – 120 characters for the professional title (summary has no limit)
  • Path – none
  • Pinterest – 160 characters
  • Quora – 60 characters
  • Skype – 200 characters
  • Slideshare – 700 characters
  • Snapchat – none
  • Twitter – 160 characters (bio)
  • Your website – Site title meta tag (1st 40 characters)
  • WhatsApp – none
  • YouTube – 1000 characters

Given the pre-eminence of Twitter, I have tended to use my Twitter bio as my anchor text. With just a 5-character reduction to your Twitter bio (160), you can create your Facebook fanpage overview. Naturally, if we are writing in Chinese or Japanese ideograms, the parsimonious nature of bios is a little less challenging.

To write a great bio

write a great bio - the myndset digital strategySo, here are my 9 key learnings and tips to make your bio the strongest possible (you can tweet out the tips you like most!):

  1. Make sure your bio presents you in the best light: no typos, no unintelligible acronyms or obscure terms. {Click to Tweet}
  2. If you are really pressed for space, you can eliminate the space after a comma or period. Of course, only a single space after a period is become de rigueur. {Click to Tweet}
  3. If you work for a company (as opposed to for yourself), you should check on company policy about how you may include your company name and whether a qualifer (such as “tweets are my own”) is required. {Click to Tweet}
  4. Include a shortform (e.g. with bit.ly) link to your site in your bio if the profile area doesn’t feature a place for a link. {Click to Tweet}
  5. If a photo can be included, don’t use an egghead or an obscured image of yourself. My strongest advice is to use the same headshot as often as possible (in particular to improve the recognition in Google Images). {Click to Tweet}
  6. If you feel you need an expanded version of your profile in the short bio, use a service such as about.me (where you can add all your social media addresses as well as blogs and videos, etc.) or flavors.me. {Click to Tweet}
  7. Make sure your bio has the keywords for which you would like to be found (Twitter has a search engine, too). {Click to Tweet}
  8. Create a series of “stock” bios in a space accessible from all your devices (i.e. in the cloud in Evernote). I have created standard 160-character, 250-character, 500-character and 1000-character versions, with the premise that I will always update in the central document first before copy/pasting into the online profile. {Click to Tweet}
  9. Recognizing it is not feasible to keep all one’s bios up-to-date all the time, I recommend putting in the effort at least once every six months for three reasons: (a) to make sure the bios are reasonably consistent and appropriately fresh; (b) because updating your bio usually spins out an automatic update from the network (which is trying to create moments of interaction/engagement); (c) Google likes new news. In fact, you might want to consider changing either your bio or image a little more frequently on the more strategic sites. {Click to Tweet}

Your thoughts and comments, as always, encouraged!

Comments 9

  1. Double spaces after the period were only added because of clarity on mono-spaced typewriters. Typesetters have been cursing ever since. Proper font faces will have adequate spacing built into the period.

    If you are extending the examination of your bio to your cv, you might want to look at http://jsonresume.org/ but maybe that’s going to separate the true geeks from the “wannabes”…

    1. Don’t have a short quip for that one QJ, so it depends on your space, who you are, etc! A few ideas to continue the discussion:
      a. be creative (be bold)
      b. include something you have published (that’s a point of difference)

      c. add a touch of your personality
      d. work the images (I’ve seen some interesting ways to play with the header image and profile shot)

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