Exploring Social Media: What’s in Your Bio?

Filed as Features on May 6, 2009 8:13 am

Exploring Social Media article series badgeIn “Five Tips for Composing a More Effective Social Networking Bio” by Maria Langer of Maria’s Guides, she asks if your social media bio is really saying what you want it to say and makes a good point:

Your bio is your primary way to tell people who don’t know you what you’re all about. If they’re heard about you from someone else or stumbled upon one of your Twitter tweets or Facebook wall posts, they might be interested in learning more. They might even want to become your . . . wait for it . . . friend.

…Think of your bio as bait on a fishing line. Who will it attract? But, at the same time, how many people will ultimately be disappointed by the mismatch between what your bio says about you and who you really are?

She includes some basic tips for creating a virtual biography such as be brief, accurate, meaningful, careful with word choice, and avoiding really personal and private information, but let’s take the picture you paint of yourself online in these various sharing outlets a step farther.

What is most important for you to share publicly?

How Much of You Should You Share and Why?

When working with clients on structuring their virtual public profile, I ask them to list the key things people need to know about them, keeping the list as specific as possible to their goals and intent.

This last part is very important, so I’m going to repeat myself with emphasis. Your public profile must specifically reflect your goals and intentions.

What you share online is only important if you understand why you are sharing it. If you are a parent blogger, then sharing parental private issues is important to establishing your credentials online. It’s expected that you share on your Facebook page how cute (or not) the bowl of spaghetti on the baby’s head was, or what you used to clean up the mess. It’s part of your online job description to talk about diapers, baby bottles, first days of school, etc. It’s important your public profile and bio state the number of children, your child-raising experiences (and hair raising experiences), and the expertise that comes with parenthood such as PTA meetings and Little League support. It’s expected. If you are a political blogger, it isn’t – unless you have no intention of defining yourself as a professional political blogger.

If you are in the business world and your blog and online presence represents that business, your public profile and biography must represent your intentions as a blogger and business person, and clearly establish your goals. Maybe baby diaper stories will enhance your professional reputation – or hurt it. Only you can decide what to share depending upon what your goals and intentions are for your online identity.

What are your goals? Your intentions? Why are you exposing yourself online? Is it for the work you are doing now, or the position and job you want in the future? Just to create an online identity or use the web for professional purposes? Is it to establish your reputation, or support your current reputation? Is it to sell products or services? What do you want to achieve by participating publicly online in the various social media sites and networks?

Just as you should customize your resume for the job and position you are applying for, so you should customize your online profile to match your goals and intentions online. Once you have that list, you know what you can, and cannot, put in your online bio, and why.

Should You Customize Your Online Profile for Each Social Network?

A client recently asked if she should have a different online profile for LinkedIn than Facebook. Again, it depends upon your intentions and goals. Should they match? Do they have to?

The most important, and often overlooked in today’s social media culture, place to put the key information that defines who you are, what you do, and why you are active online is your blog and its about page. No matter where you go on the web, your blog should be your home base, your business card, resume, and billboard from which all else flows and reconnects. Networking services restrict what you can or can’t add to your bio or profile, but your blog is wide open for you to add whatever information you want or need to help people get to know you better.

LinkedIn is often thought of as an online professional resume service with some networking and social. It’s not really a highly interactive social network, though a few use it for that. It is mostly about making connections – professional connections. If your intentions are to use LinkedIn for professional business purposes, then let your LinkedIn profile reflect that. If your goal is to be found on LinkedIn for casual purposes, then use it accordingly.

Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are highly social and interactive, usually considered more informal than LinkedIn. If your goal in using Facebook, Twitter, etc., is to be purely social, and not for professional purposes, than let your bio reflect your personal side, with lists of hobbies and interests in addition to some professional expertise.

If your goal is to promote your business, highlighting hobbies and special interests is nice, but do it as you would on a resume. Keep it short and sweet and not

Twitter is a strange duck when it comes to defining yourself and your identity. It’s turned into a private conversation pit for public viewing, which helps to build and reinforce your online persona while offering you another way to communicate with others regardless. People are using Twitter like IM and email – sending messages back and forth with little regard for reputation.

While your Twitter profile is visible on your Twitter page, few ever visit. With the proliferation of easier and better to use third-party applications, when was the last time you visited a Twitter page? Profiles and avatars are pulled into Twitter apps without visiting the page. Make sure the information you provide is enough. Honestly, there isn’t much information you can provide, so make sure they can easily find your blog to learn more about who you are.

How do you define you online? Do you have the same information everywhere in your various online bios? Or do you customize it for the different services? How many do you need?

And wouldn’t it be wonderful to have one spot to put all your profile information (one personal, one professional) so you don’t have to keep filling in all the blanks on those forms?

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  1. By Mike posted on May 6, 2009 at 11:15 am
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    Why you missed out Google Profile ? It will be one cohesive place for all your online profiles and it can get indexed by Google easily. Market your personal brand by verify your credentials using Free Crederity account.

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  2. By Jay Philips posted on May 6, 2009 at 11:19 am
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    Bios should be short and sweet. Provide a link to more details so people can get more details.

    I don’t think people should be using cartoon images or characters. If you’re in social media how is that being social?

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  3. By Maria Reyes-McDavis posted on May 6, 2009 at 1:02 pm
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    Great post, most important part being the “central” location for your presence — ie, one’s blog. This is the biggest part most miss when developing their online presence. — Everything from there, should be short, sweet, and to the point — with personality. Goals are great, but they call it the social web for a reason :-)

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  4. By Maria posted on May 7, 2009 at 9:06 am
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    First of all, thanks for the link!

    I agree with Jay regarding images. I think your account picture or avatar should represent you without using someone else’s (possibly copyrighted or trademarked) image. I wish more of my Twitter friends (for example) used photos of themselves for their avatars. It really helps me connect with them personally.

    I also agree that everyone should have a central place for their online presence. A blog is great if you have one, but if you don’t, Facebook or LinkedIn or something like them might work. Your central place is the best place to put concentrated information about yourself. Keep that up to date and point everything else to it. Makes it a lot easier to keep your identity current.

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  5. By john posted on November 24, 2009 at 4:56 am
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    I am aprehensive to put out my face on the inetrnet. I ‘m not completly comfortable with having people metting me and not having me meeting them at the same time. Is this not a perception that other people have about putting their face on the internet? On places such as myface? If success in my profesion were directly proportial to the amount of exposure of my face to unknowns It may make me feel differently.

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