Have you ever had someone ask for your bio, then found yourself dashing one off quickly and emailing it over?
You probably know that’s not the most thoughtful approach, but bios aren’t the easiest things to write. So we put off writing them as long as we can. A strongly written bio often requires taking an inventory, measuring the impact of past efforts and accomplishments, reviewing feedback and testimonials about your efforts, and compressing professional history into witty and engaging prose. And then, once you’ve drafted a great one, it tends to date quickly if you’re an active writer.
Here’s how to take charge of the process, and build a bio that’s not only better than most you have read, but also compelling enough to attract the fans and clients you’d like to have in the first place.
I use the word “bio” to mean bios of any length, scope, or depth. It’s more than just the text that belongs on your website’s about page—you’ll need several types of bios over the course of a career, and you’ll be more satisfied with the results if they’re written thoughtfully and kept ready to use.
This post focuses on three types of bios that come in handy, whether you have a new or an established career:
- The one-page bio
- The one-paragraph bio
- The social media bio
1. The One-Page Bio—Or The Long Bio
Let’s talk about the construction of your one-page bio first. Tackle this version before the rest—it contains the most information about you. It will offer the widest scope of information, but also compress your professional history. This is the type of bio that would likely go on your website About page, although many choose to use a short bio, or both a short bio and a long bio, with the shorter bio at the top of the page and the longer version further down.
You should rely on your bio to create engagement with readers on the first read. If your bio does not grab the reader’s attention, you may not get another chance. You want the reader to feel an affinity toward you and what you offer, such that connections are made and more familiarity is desired. Here are a few things to keep in mind when working on your long bio:
- Before you start writing, know whom you are trying to connect with and strive to make a genuine connection with that specific audience.
- Know what you do and how you do it differently than everyone else so you can express your unique approach to them.
- Provide enough compressed background information to give readers a sense of where you are coming from without overwhelming them with a laundry list of every single thing you have done.
Your one-page bio will probably be the hardest bio to write, and will likely go through the most rounds of editing, which is fine. Your readers do not care how hard you worked on your bio; they only care about connecting with the person who created such a compelling impression.
Find Your Bio Keywords
Once you have your one-page bio drafted, edited and polished, put it down for a bit and get ready to identify the keywords that describe the who, what, when, where, why and how of what you uniquely offer. Keywords are like the nectar that attracts the search engine honeybees. If you want your bios to garner solid search engine results, they have to contain keywords.
I suggest writing your long bio first and then working in keywords after it is drafted and polished. If you have done your writing job well, your keywords will likely drop right into the text with very little editing needed.
2. The One-Paragraph Bio—Or The Short Bio
A one-paragraph bio usually accompanies your work when it’s shared on the Internet or in print—somewhere outside of your own site or blog. You may also want a condensed version of your long bio on the front page of your website, or at the end of every blog post. You’ll find there are a wide variety of possible uses, especially during book launches, conferences, speaking or teaching opportunities, and interviews.
Here are a few tips for paring your one-page bio down into one paragraph:
- If who, what, where, when, why, and how took up a paragraph in your one-page bio, this should take one or two sentences in your one-paragraph bio.
- Hit the most important and impressive notes of a long career. You don’t have time to describe your whole history. Remember that a reader will likely skim your bio.
- Think about the reader, who they are, and what they want to know. Then slant your bio to speak directly to them. Your short bio may venture out beyond your usual audience, so be prepared to tweak it to best effect depending on where it’s headed next.
3. The Social Media Bio
Of the three types of bios, your social media bios will have the most variation because bio guidelines change from platform to platform. After you have your long and short bios relatively set, you’re ready to adapt your one-paragraph bio into various social media bios.
Assuming you’re active in your use, I suggest you create distinct bios for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Tumblr. Each of these bios has a distinct flavor that reflects the platform context and users. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Align your bio tone with the tone of the platform. For example, don’t get all serious in your Pinterest bio. And don’t get too casual in your LinkedIn bio.
- Don’t miss opportunities to post a longer version of your bio. For example, you can get quite a bit of bio mileage out of LinkedIn and Google+.
- Some platforms only offer you a sentence or two. Both Twitter and Pinterest only allow 160 characters including spaces. And you probably won’t use the same bio for both. Does it make more sense to use a list of keywords for your bio or squeeze the essence of what you do down into one or two meaty sentences? You decide.
Don’t forget to test your copy by showing it to colleagues, readers, or fans like those you’re targeting. Friends and family may not always provide the most helpful advice when it comes to building a better bio.
When your bios are really good, readers nod, make a noise, bookmark the page, go check you out on your website, and hunt you down on social media. If they are really impressed, they might engage with you online or email you.
You know this is true because you do it, too. And I bet when you read a bio that is not well written, you pay a lot less attention to the person it describes. No one in business online today can afford to present a bio fails to make any impression at all. You want potential fans to learn enough about you to create genuine interest and potential for a future connection.
So, bios carry a lot of weight. And they can be challenging to write. But you’re a professional worth knowing—so shouldn’t you come across this way in your bio?
You should. You know you should. And when you take the time to write your three types of bios thoughtfully, you will.
Note from Jane: Christina is offering a new class on building a better bio. Click here to find out more.