"Pray that I never become your competitor's secret weapon"

by Scott Gould February 28th, 2011 

unique

Olivier Blanchard's latest Twitter bio says "Pray that I never become your competitor's secret weapon." When I read that, I tell you what I do do – I click on his link and find out more.

Why?

How many times have you seen a Twitter bio that says "Husband. Father. Thinker. Runner. Twitterer. Love design and the web." or words to that effect?

As I get more followers, deciding who to follow back is an important decision for me. I don't want to have a full tweet stream and I also don't use applications like TweetDeck or Seesmic to keep lists, so having a good list of people that I follow is important. And my criteria for who I follow is quite simple: will you add value to me?

I don't know if many of us have ever thought deeply about why we follow certain people and don't follow others, but my criteria goes something like this:

  • Are you unique from everyone else out there just talking?
  • Are you well versed in your area and therefore able to bring me new insights?
  • Are you similar to me or I do relate to you?
  • Is your location, company or job of immediate interest to me?
  • Do you talk back to people?

Whilst I don't expect everyone to be all those to me, I seem to weigh up a general feel from someone based on these thoughts that flick across my mind, and if I feel the response is generally positive, I follow.

And where do I look to make this decision? I'd say 70% of my focus is on the bio.

Is your bio unique?

different

Recently my friend Robin Dickinson wrote a very good post, which had a very good discussion, on putting your link within your Twitter bio as well as in the link field. His point was that you don't get much time in front of eyeballs these days and any opportunity you have to up your chance of getting followed or getting clicked must be considered.

In my comment on this post I brought up the very point that I started with: when I read a bio that is generic and the same as everyone else's – "Father. Husband. Dog Lover. Pasta Eater", etc – I lose interest. Nothing stands out to me. In a word, it is not unique.

It is as if I am being told by the person "I'm just like everyone else, in the middle of the road, and an alright kinda guy." And whilst indeed I do appreciate alright kinda people, and we should strive to be good willed on Twitter, it's exceptional people that I'm looking for on Twitter.

Rethink unique

what-is-unique

My suggestion is that we need to rethink our bio and make it unique. And what do I mean by unique? I mean that it demands either a click on your link, or a follow – a second look, if you will.

The biggest element in being unique in your Twitter bio is to create mystery. Make a statement that makes people want to know more. Make it the trailer for the movie – the 160 character snippet of the full blown experience that is you. Ask a question, make a bold statement, point to something you're proud of, say something different about yourself… as long as it's something that makes people look twice (and doesn't make them close the window right away!)

Our Twitter bios are a 160 character chance to demonstrate our USP (unique selling point), so let's reclaim them from the realms of mediocrity and really express our uniqueness and our value in a way that demands a second look.

Scott Gould

Scott is co-founder of Like Minds, a community that gathers around it's international events and co-working clubs. He is also a church pastor, married to a hottie, and blogs daily.

http://scottgould.me

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22 Responses to “"Pray that I never become your competitor's secret weapon"”

  1. :D Wow! I didn't expect that. Thank you.

    My bio used to be a string of keywords, basically. There is some value to that, but I thought that by stripping away the details, I could more easily get to the core of what I really wanted people to get out of the bio. I'm not sure I've accomplished that, but at least it's different. And to the point. ;)

    Cheers.

  2. You're popping up all over the place Mr Gould.

    Wise words. Totally kicked me in the backside over my bio. I tell people to focus on their values and what value they provide others. But you are right, there has to be stand out. I will be stepping it up.

    • Scott Gould says:

      Hey all – glad you enjoyed the post and can make use of it. Now go and get those bio's rocking!

  3. Terrific post, Scott.

    I agree, Oliver has a stand out twitter bio that (combined with his twittet name) gets straight to the point of who he is, what he does, and what makes him different (with an element of mystery) that leaves the reader wanting to know more. It is compelling.

    LinkedIn users should take note, too. Instead of using their profiles as a standard boring bio, make it personal and engage the reader.

  4. I think I'll use my 160 characters to advertise something. Like a mini-spam so you know exactly what I'll be tweeting. Show me the money!

  5. [...] then go on to explain the importance of having a unique Twitter bio. You can read the whole article here. Tweet blog comments powered by Disqus /* About This is our blog. It is the [...]

  6. Kristof says:

    I agree with you Scott, to a point.

    People should give more thought into what their Twitter Bio says and make it as unique as possible. After all, making a point of difference is important.

    On the flip side, I wouldn't completely poo-poo on using a list of words.

    The main reason people post word list bios is to to help other people find them through search and hopefully gain more followers. So if Joe Mechanic bio reads, "Engine mechanic for planes, trains and automobiles. Into Diesel trucks and pizza". Then there's a good chance people with the same interests will find his account and follow him.

    Olivier, as always, is an exception to the rule. I personally think his new Bio is the best I've seen. But (you knew that was coming, right?) he's already well established. He has over 35,000 followers on Twitter and is a well-known speaker and branding consultant offline. To that end, my guess is that he's not concerned with people finding his Twitter account through search. I mean, lets face it, if someone is on Twitter, at some point or another they WILL hear about him. Otherwise, my bet is that with his new bio, his following would include a great many religious people and government officials from the DoD.

    That said, I do think there's a middle ground.

    If someone is new to Twitter (and not famous or a popular brand), they should think about using a word list — but make it interesting. And as they grow their following, they can move away from 'just words' to something with more impact.

    Disclaimer: I personally include "father" in my bio because it's a big part of who I am and topics that I talk about. But that's just me ;)

    • Ruud Hein says:

      Good observation, Kristof. A lot of people find you based on the keywords used in the bio.

      I go back and forth on it myself too. I like being found for some of my key interests: makes my streams more interesting. But Scott's point is very strong too.

      Do you think both could be combined? Sort of "meet in the middle"?

    • Scott Gould says:

      Hey Kristof – of course there is middle ground. I would say that one can communicate being a father without needing to just say "Father."

      Scott

  7. Owen Greaves says:

    Good advice, my problem is, I'm not that creative with my own stuff, I'm way more creative with other people's needs. I guess I'm too close to it, need outside help for this one. I think that's true of most people.

  8. Paul Gailey says:

    Bio text is really important although its not a be and end all. An indicator I take careful note of thanks to the app i use is, the frequency tweets by day. If they are exceedingly high I question if the user really is a listener. I'm stupified to discover people who tweet upwards of 50 times a day on average.

    i've also always wondered why Twitter don't yet offer a true bio search along the lines of the since defunct Tweepsearch or http://followerwonk.com although you can use Google with some advanced operators to deep search.

    ps. I do like the way this post randomizes the flattery above the comments with "x magnificent comments" each time. I might borrow that!

    • Ruud Hein says:

      What a cool tool, Paul. What is it? HootSuite?

      ps. I do like the way this post randomizes the flattery above the comments with "x magnificent comments" each time. I might borrow that!

      Thanks :) We do feel the people commenting here are special so, yeah :)

  9. Paul Gailey says:

    i use Gravity to tweet, an app made for symbian, Nokia phones, and for every profile you look up it shows joined date of twitter and tweets per day.

  10. Kate Rose says:

    Verrry thought provoking.
    We're still experimenting with our Twitter bios but the focus has mainly been on promoting our business capabilities (Marian Schembari's "say what you do" approach)vs the more personal, engaging stuff.
    So now here's a third dimension – in a space which is becoming ever more crowded, does originality trump the value of either of those?!
    I think it might – apart from anything, a bio like Olivier's actually conveys more personality than generic interests at the level you can express within a bio. If someone says they like "music and food" – well surely, so do we all, to some extent. There's just not enough room to say "I love X music genre, especially bands Y and Z, and italian cuisine"!

    • Ruud Hein says:

      You bring up some very valid points, Kate.

      If I do a quick "my own reality" check then if I check a Twitter bio it is indeed more to get an idea of what this person does, is into (high level), and if those things are touch points or points of interest to me. Olivier's bio works for me because I already know of him — but someone else using the exact same thing could very easily leave me with a pompous impression…

      There isn't enough room to list the music styles you look but that you list music even when faced with a character limit shows it is important to you. I like food & cooking but not enough to display it as a special trait of me; it's not on my Twitter bio either.

      OK, how about we join forces and just ask Twitter for a bigger bio? :D

  11. Nick Faber says:

    Great post, Scott! I wrote something this week about twitter bio cliches, too

    Yours has a far more positive spin, though! :)

  12. [...] See also @scottgold's post about Twitter bio uniqueness. [...]

  13. Hazel says:

    The kick up the bum I needed – thank you!

  14. [...] if you ask me what makes a good Twitter bio, I would say it should be informative, eye-catching, compelling and contain some keywords that [...]