Is Your Twitter Profile God-Awful?

by rachael g king on October 13, 2011


Whether you’re a casual Twitter user, a digital networking powerhouse, or a small business looking to use Twitter for marketing, chances are you’re not opposed to gaining more Twitter followers. However aggressive (or not) your desire for followers may be, I think we can all agree that in general, we hope that those we choose to follow will at least consider returning the favor.

When I personally hit that “follow” button, it’s for one or more of a few reasons. Either I a) like what you’ve got to say, b) believe we have something or someone in common that warrants connecting, or c) would just plain like to get to know you better.

So yes, when I push that button, that’s me saying that “I think it’d be worthwhile for us to be on each other’s radars”… and the implied second part of that is “and I hope you feel the same way.” In order to make sure the people on the receiving end of your request find you worthy, let’s audit the different areas of your profile and make sure it’s up to par.

How to Determine If Your Twitter Profile is Follow-Worthy

When someone follows me on Twitter, I first look at the email notification for any immediate red flags. (Do they follow 900 people and only have 50 followers? Is their picture an egg? Do they have zero status updates?)

If they pass those tests and move on to Part 2 of Consideration, I’ll click through and open up their profile to see what they’re all about.

Now, I’m not claiming you need to have a customized background, or even a particularly witty bio. But there are some basics you need to have in place to be taken seriously. Like:

1. Your username.

Does it contain the word “guru”, “SEOninja”, or “foxxxxxxy”? How about eighty-seven random numbers, or the phrase “4U”? God forbid, does it have more than one underscore? (Although truth be told, I can’t stand underscores at all – but I think that’s a personal quirk of mine. It’s also often unavoidable, given the popularity of Twitter-squatters on excellent username real estate.)

2. Your photo.

Pretty much the only thing that matters here (other than just having one – no eggs, please!) – is it a REAL picture? And yes, I’m sorry, but it’s points off if your profile pic is not actually you, but a cartoon avatar or a picture of something like scenery. Look, that Mexican beach is beautiful and all, but it doesn’t help me decide if I want to follow you on Twitter. (Points gained back if it’s a cat, or cat-related*.)

OK. Not OK.

If you’re worried about anonymity, a partial shot or one that’s not up close and personal is fine. But it just seems so much more legitimate when there’s the promise of an actual human behind the account, even if all I can see is your left eye and a nostril.

(Obviously this is different for brands, but it should still be a professional, high-res logo consistent with your branding that insinuates that you are who you say you are.)

2. Your location.

This doesn’t necessarily make-or-break, but it can certainly help (or hurt). If you’re in an area of interest to me personally, like DC (where I live), I’m more likely to follow you – even if other areas of your profile are lacking. Likewise, if you don’t put a location on there (or put something vague like “USA” or something stupid like “Right behind you!” – points off. Leave the cheese for Facebook; that don’t play on Twitter.

4. Your account privacy.

Yes, there are a FEW exceptions to this rule… but in general, if you have a protected account, you’re Doing Twitter Wrong. And unless I know you in real life, there’s pretty much zero chance I’m going to “request” to follow you.

5, and this is the Big One: YOUR BIO.

This is the cornerstone of your identity on Twitter. Painting “the picture of you” in those precious 160 characters is difficult, but goshdarnit, spend a half hour on it. I can only glean so much information from that twinkle in your avatar’s eye.

Here are the guidelines that are official in my brain because I just made them up:

      • None of this one sentence stuff. Unless it’s so funny it makes me snarf my coffee, you need to open up a little bit. Tell me your hopes, your dreams… or at least what gets your juices flowing.
      • Don’t go on and on about what an expert you are or how many books you’ve written or how many puppies you’ve saved. Leave the smarm and the horn-tooting for LinkedIn, buddy.
      • A joke or two never hurts. Unless it’s a dumb one. But hey, brownie points for trying.
      • Please do not construct your entire bio out of as many generic hashtags as you can cram in there, like “#SEO #marketing #internet #business #blogging #socialmedia #tech #noonecares. Not only is this difficult to decipher, it’s entirely uncreative. USE YOUR WORDS.
      • Don’t write it in third person, unless you’re famous. And I don’t mean internet-famous, I mean people-want-you-to-kiss-their-babies famous. (And even they look douchey doing it, but they’re allowed.)
      • It’s nice to give me some idea about what to expect from your tweets. What kind of subjects will you talk about? Will your focus be your industry, glitter unicorns, or some combination of the two?
      • Do not, under any circumstances, have any rendition of “FOLLOW BACK” in your bio. This screams of a) desperation and b) Twitter-slut-ism. If you’ll follow anyone or anything, you’ve already told me our relationship won’t be special. I thought we were trying to build something real, and here you’re just using me for stats!
      • Saying you are “passionate” without specifying an actual passion. About what? Breathing? Proving Nessie’s existence? Dubstep? Help a girl out.
      • Listing obvious things that don’t differentiate you from anyone else on the planet. You love to laugh! Or perhaps you enjoy eating food. Or wait – I bet you’re a big fan of sunshine! Well, whoop-de-freaking-doo. Tell me something unique, or stop wasting my precious brain space. (Kisses.)

If you embrace these recommendations and avoid the pitfalls mentioned, I think it’s safe to say you’ll end up with a Twitter bio you can be proud of. Or at least, one that won’t make you look like a big, fat, porny spambot. You’re welcome!

*Look, I don’t make up the Internet rules; this is just a fact of e-life. Deal with it, cat haters.

  • Ali Almoosawi

    Well said, what do you think of my profile?

  • Jean-Luc Lion

    This article is a gem, both in style and content!

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  • Katie C

    Oh my gosh, how I love this post. I just kept shaking my head ” yes, yes, and yes” to everything. And like a previous commenter said, the auto DM is absolutely 100% the bane of my existence. WHY do people/companies do that?!?!?! It kills me.

  • Hope

    This article = 100% win.

  • Anonymous

    I’d add having your Klout score anyway in your Twitter bio. This may be one of the biggest douchebag things someone can do on Twitter. 

    • rachael g king

      I have never actually seen this done, which is good, because I would probably punch my computer.

      • Anonymous

        Sadly, I’ve seen this before. More than once actually. Both times I didn’t follow the person back. 

  • Melissa

    This just made my day. 

    • rachael g king

      Glad to do it!

  • Renee

    Worse than any of these is the automated DM thank you for following me.

    • rachael g king

      INSTANT UNFOLLOW. Why do people *do* this?!

  • City Girl

    This is a great list! I’m so with you about the use of the underscore and the follow back!

    • rachael g king

      I’m glad to hear it’s not just me who hates the underscore. It looks so… sloppy. Second rate.

  • Tiffany

    I thought this post was great, you passed on much needed tips while still humorous. But the “deal with it, cat haters” actually made me howl, passionately.

    • rachael g king

      You can’t argue with the science of the Internet (cats). 😉

  • terra

    Hilarious and exactly true – I love getting new follow notifications because at least 50% of the time they’re full of ridiculousness.

    And private twitter feeds drive me nits. If you don’t want to share it with the world, don’t bout that shit on the internet.

    • rachael g king

      That’s the thing – I’m sure they’re saying lots of smart things that could get them fired or worse, because they think it’s “private”. Um, screen shot FTW?

  • Gweenbrick

    Hi rachael g king- I am shamed. I use twitter to promote my stupid blog and one time it worked, but I have don’t have a profile even. Will you write one for me? I will pay you the sum of….wait….I have a small ripped bag of whiska’s I could send you, but I don’t have money for postage. Do you have a fax machine?

    • rachael g king

      What is this “fax” you speak of? 

  • Libby Krah

    Love this! Thank you for compiling all the random thoughts I’ve had when wading through new follow notification emails, checking out random @replies and stalking people my Twitter friends are having conversations with!

    • rachael g king

      You are so welcome! Now to disseminate it to all the people who need it…

  • Gia Ghani

    ahh, such useful tips. although, now I’m feeling an intense pressure to remove “hearty laugher” from my bio. loll :) happpppy friday! 

    • rachael g king

      “Hearty laughter” is a whole different ballgame – THAT, I can get behind!

  • Anonymous

    I love this. I wrote a similar post but called it Twitter Followers You Love to Hate. Lots of snark. But yours is funny and informative. And your little bio in the upper right? LOVE IT.

    • rachael g king

      Thank you!! I love it too, haha. I think it gets the point across. 😉

  • paulidin

    I’ve now slightly adjusted my bio because I didn’t have it in first person. Good tips, all!

    • rachael g king

      Yeah. I’ve seen a couple that pulled it off without being douchey, but… why? It sounds so much more personable when it’s coming from YOU. Twitter’s not a resume, it’s a communication tool, so I want to know you’re the one behind it! :-)

  • Insane Hussein

    My twitter bio is a winner. That is all.

    • rachael g king

      *fist bump*

  • Tillie

    HAHAHA —  Twitter-slut-ism <<– best description EVER.

    This is brilliant. I am often saddened by the unoriginality of people's twitter bios.

    Ones from today:
    "My Name is Stuar Klaut. living in USA I like Blog and blogger. Follow me and get exciting topics, I will follow you back."

    "An internationally respected Coach,Trainer,Facilitator,Helping business owners & managers boost performance & productivity by bringing out d best in "

    I did however follow this one:
    "Undead artist, zombie luver, geek, horror freak, bone daddy, and stark raving mad."

    Spammer or not, he is my hero!

    • rachael g king

      Yup. 8 trillion points for creativity, haha!

  • Kelly L.

    Ooops. My avatar is an illustration/cartoon right now. And my bio is only one sentence. I fail.

    • rachael g king

      But you’re lovely. So it’s okay. 😉

  • nicopolitan

    Totally tangential, but that link to dubstep made me spit out my coffee. Just thought you should know that.

    • rachael g king

      I was hoping someone would appreciate that. <3

  • Anonymous

    But what if you love laughing more than anyone?

    I agree re private twitter feeds.  Only exceptions are perhaps during a job search and if you want to hide a certain something for a certain period of time.  (Maybe you don’t want the world knowing you are out of town for whatever reason.  Or maybe you want to talk about a trauma to your “people” but the the world so you lock it for a few days…)

    • rachael g king

      Those are definitely worthy exceptions. And considerate ones, too.

      I think you can only claim the laughing thing if you’ve won some serious laugh-offs. On reality TV, too, so it’s official.

  • Random Blogette

    I have witnessed some ridiculous twitter bios out there. Thank you for this. Maybe some of them will finally get a clue.

    • rachael g king

      And if not, then we now have the right to laugh at them. That’s how it works, right?

  • Jenn

    Please write my twitter bio for me!!!! Cats cats cats cats cats!

    • rachael g king

      Bull. I LOVE yours.

  • Crystal

    I like to think mine is short and to the point.

    • rachael g king

      Sometimes, all you need are those two little words. 😉

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  • Mikael

    Great post Rachael! Every single one of these things is completely right when it comes to weeding out people to follow. So retweeted.

    • rachael g king

      Thank you, thank you! Maybe we shouldn’t be fixing these shoddy bios, so that we CAN weed them out…

  • Lindsay Goldner

    Was followed today by someone with THIS gem of a bio: “Thug Life in Los Angeles Two glock 23’s for survival Death to my rivals”

    • rachael g king

      I bet he’d cap you if you didn’t #FOLLOWBACK!!!!

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