Five Things I Learned About Twitter Bios by Reading Over 4,000 User Profiles
I know you’re probably wondering how long it took to read over 4,000 Twitter bios. It was about 11 hours and 24 minutes… give or take. You may also be wondering why I read over 4,000 Twitter bios. To understand this piece, I need to give you a bit of backstory first.
I joined Twitter a long, long, long time ago. March 15, 2007 to be exact. At the time of writing this, that puts the number of years that I’ve been on Twitter at just over 10. A full decade spent on a single social media platform. Crazy.
Much like everyone else who joined Twitter in the early days, I made a ton of mistakes. For example, I followed everyone back that followed me to the tune of about 26,000 users.
It felt like the right thing to do at the time — I was reciprocating their gesture after all — but it turns out that doing so only creates an enormous amount of chaos. I couldn’t listen to anyone, let alone engage, and I felt like I was out of touch and overwhelmed, which ultimately made me put my head in the sand and ignore Twitter altogether.
Ignoring Twitter made me a little frustrated though. I had really enjoyed my time on Twitter and to avoid using it, simply because things had become a bit chaotic, made me feel like I was missing out. So, I set out to clean up my Twitter, which first meant unfollowing about 22,345 people.
Yep, you read that right. 22,345 people.
That process took me about a year and a half to complete. I didn’t do it all at once, of course, but rather in bite-sized chunks over time. And, it was a painstaking process because I felt bad unfollowing anyone let alone 22,345 people. Eventually though, I got the number down to about 4,000 folks.
It was from this place that I began reading each person’s bio to see whether or not it still made sense for me to be seeing their updates in my main newsfeed. Before I did this though, I began by listing out the criteria I had in mind for the type of people I wanted to follow on Twitter. I also got clear about why I wanted to follow them and what Twitter would be for my business and my life.
Armed with all of that info and criteria, I sat down, deleted all of my old lists and created new categories that made more sense for where I was at with my business (and life) and began reading and categorizing.
In the end, I was left with robust lists (neatly categorized to match my current interest areas), a small and manageable list of folks that I was following and a notebook filled with reasons why people didn’t get followed. This is the piece that I wanted to share with you today.
#1 — Being Too Creative Leads to a Lack of Clarity
One of the primary things that jumped out at me, as I read through the bios, was that people love getting super creative with their text.
The problem with getting too creative is that it makes it really hard for people to know why they should connect with you or even how to connect with you. Folks who blended creativity with a bit of their job title or their interests and hobbies were much more likely to be added to a list and connected with because they provided a “hook.”
It’s sort of like when you are meeting people for the first time in a social setting or at a networking event. Typically, you’ll dance around a few different topics to see where the two of you have aligned interests. Then, when you find the “hook”, you dive deep into that area of conversation. Twitter (or any social platform) is similar. If you give someone something to grab onto, they’ll be much more likely to connect with you.
#2 — Followers Matters … But Not in the Way You Think It Does
Everyone’s initial thought when I mention this is that you need to look like a “big deal” in order to get more people to follow you. The truth is, when looking for people to engage with on social media, I almost always ignore how many followers they have and look primarily at how many they follow.
Why? Well, if you follow 109,890 people, the chances are much lower that you’ll be able to connect and engage with folks unless you are meticulous about organizing and categorizing new followers onto lists. Twitter users who were following a ton of people were less likely to get a follow because I knew that in order for me to build a relationship and connect with them, I’d have to be the one to put in the time and effort.
Social media is about building relationships and that’s difficult to do when you’re battling a ton of noise and volume. And, nobody likes one-sided relationships.
#3 — Generic Keywords Help Nobody
As I read through the 4,000 bios, I couldn’t help but notice how many people used generic keywords like: entrepreneur, founder, speaker, blogger, marketer, writer, etc. Keywords that could be used to describe thousands and thousands of people.
While it may feel safe to describe yourself as any one of those things, it doesn’t give people enough information to know whether or not they want to connect with you.
I was much more apt to connect with someone whose bio read “#SaaS entrepreneur focused on #AI” than I was to follow someone who chose the word “entrepreneur” and my brain was more likely to think of ways to connect with them, or who to connect them to, having that extra bit of information. Without it, I had no way to know how I could help them, what I could chat with them about or which lists they most likely needed to be on.
Avoiding generic keywords means creating better opportunities for connection as it tells people more about who you are and what you do.
#4 — Your Latest Tweets Provide Folks a Preview of What’s to Come
Sometimes a bio on its own isn’t enough to decide whether or not you want to connect with someone. Sometimes, you need to take a quick look at their latest Tweets to get a preview of what’s to come.
As I was reading, I couldn’t help but notice how many people were using tools that cross-posted their updates from other social media platforms to Twitter. Most of them came from Instagram and Facebook and the cross-posting tool they were using caused their updates to break or look clumsy. Truncated Tweets, for example, or Instagram photos that were posted with a URL instead of the photo.
My best guess is that their goal was to have a populated Twitter account but the downside is that it was obvious that they weren’t present on the platform, which led to an unfollow. The goal for me was to connect with folks and build relationships and I can’t do that if they aren’t actually there.
Reviewing your latest Tweets is a good way to see yourself through another person’s eyes — will they see broadcasted noise or will they see an opportunity to connect human to human?
#5 — If You Look Like You’ve Sold Out, I’m Out
Finally, one of the things that popped up a lot in bios that led me to unfollow was any indication that the person had sold out their Twitter feed to a brand (or multiple brands.)
Now, I’m all about people getting paid to do what they love and I understand, from work I’ve done in my past, that brands want to work with influencers and that can be a fantastic relationship when done correctly. BUT (and yep, there’s a but), when it comes to a platform that I am using to be social and build relationships and connect with people, I don’t really want to opt-in for advertising to do so. AND, if your bio says “PR friendly”, I know that I’m opting in for advertising when I follow you.
While I understand the intent of “PR friendly”, I think it actually does a disservice to those who use it as it tells me, someone outside of the PR world who may genuinely want to follow you and connect with you, that this space of potential connectedness can be bought.
Here’s the most difficult thing about being an influencer who is trying to grow relationships with brands — the two are very difficult to marry onto one profile. If you are trying to attract a specific audience to follow your social profiles, blogs, etc. AND you’re telling those same folks that what you really want is the relationship with brands, PR folks, etc., you’ll lose the audience you’re trying to build.
The long and the short of it is this: build a fantastic audience, create great relationships and the PR folks will come knocking at your door regardless of whether your bio says “PR friendly” or not.
Reading 4,000 Twitter bios was a lot of work but it gave me a newfound appreciation for the time and effort that people put into these social spaces.
It also afforded me the opportunity to get to know every single person that I follow, which feels like a game-changer — I feel like I have that sense of connectedness that social was created for in the first place. I also feel like I can show up to the platform without feeling overwhelmed.
Putting in a little effort on these platforms can go a long way and your bio is a fairly easy place to start. Try tweaking it a little and see what happens — you just might find that your ability to connect with the right people will bring you back to the platform for connection and conversation.