Saturday, February 28, 2009

Your Twitter bio. Your brand in 160 characters.

Believe it or not, a 160-character bio can say a lot about you and your personal brand. Not only that, but it can either encourage or discourage people to follow you in a split second, which may mean that someone you want to follow you won't. And second chances don't come easily.

There are thousands of aspects of Twitter that I could write about but it seems people are not aware of how much impact this little bio can have. So I thought I'd share a few "Do's" and "Don't's" based on what I've observed.

How to create a great bio:

  • Do take the time to draft your bio and not rush when filling out your profile. Suggest you write it in Word and use the word count (all characters) to make it fit. I believe it was T.S Eliot who said "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter." It takes some time to write pithy. Be pithy.
  • Do share with people what you do and/or what you like. Let them know who you are. People want to follow those for whom they share an affinity or find interesting. And you want people to follow you for a reason, not just because you happen to be on Twitter.
  • Do be sure that you use the space. You can use all 160 characters although you don't have to. Keep in mind that if all you say is "I like turtles" then many people won't follow. Substance is always important, whether in the copy for your bio or tweets.
  • Do take the time to edit, ensuring there are no typos and that no words are cut off at the end. I've had trouble with the length measurement when I thought the copy fit originally but later found the last word was cut off. So please check the copy a day or so later just to give it a good review with fresh eyes.

And here are some things to watch out for:

  • Don't leave the bio space blank. People will often not follow the person who hasn't taken the time to write a few words about their own personal brand. Decisions about following get made very quickly and people often don't even go to your Twitter page to make their choice -- they just look at your photo and bio and either click "follow" or pass you by.
  • Don't use the space to put in another URL; comes across too promotional. There's a separate field for the URL of either your main web site or blog and people will click there if they want to get to know you better or read your material.
  • Don't use the space to write a "thank you for following me" message; that's what Replies or Direct Messages (DMs) are for.
  • Don't try to sell within your bio. One basic rule of direct marketing is to sell the next step. The next step here is the initial step and there's a lot of relationship building that has to happen before you can start promoting your wares. It's way too early to sell in your bio. It's a turn off and all you're trying to achieve in your bio is establish a follower connection by quickly communicating your brand.

If you have any questions about how best to create your brand on the social networks, please add a comment here on this blog or tweet me at

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Learnings from Richard Branson's Leadership Style

I was intrigued by an article in the November 2008 issue of Entrepreneur magazine about Richard Branson and his views on business – and life. Certainly, no one could say that he isn’t a risk taker. In talking about cheating death in some of his personal stunts, he says “…just like in business, I have to stay completely focused. I haven’t got the time or the energy to spend getting scared.” His commitment to take on challenges, live life to its fullest, push himself to the limits, take action rather than merely talk about it, and not waste precious resources are all driven by his passion and vision to make a difference in this world.

Isn’t this a great testament to effective leadership that we can apply to our lives and our business? To not let anything stop us? I’m reminded of self-help author Susan Jeffers’ book entitled, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. It’s not that we don’t experience fear. It’s not that Branson isn’t scared at times. It’s what we do with that fear that matters. Do we push through it or allow it to hold us back? A certain amount of fear is what keeps us focused on our vision. That focus, commitment and determination is what has allowed Branson a “net worth valued at $5 billion.” That’s not so bad, eh?

Branson’s newest book, Business Stripped Bare, was just released in September.
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