How to write a Twitter bio that'll make you stand out as a journalist

It’s well documented that Twitter helps journalists do their work better. I have shared, for example, how journalism educators can teach students to live tweet campus events. Too bad, though, that some current and aspiring journalists waste another great Twitter opportunity: taking advantage of their twesume.

A twesume is the 160 characters (maximum) that make up one’s Twitter bio.

I first heard the term from social media guru Sree Sreenivasan (@sree) at The Poynter Institute’s Teachapalooza conference for journalism educators in June. “Fill out your Twitter bio so it reflects the best, most recent version of you,” Sreenivasan, Columbia University’s new chief digital officer, told us during his presentation. Sadly, too many journalists and students have bios that don’t come close to distinguishing themselves.

Here are seven tips for creating a great twesume:

Start with the basics.

Who are you? Write it down on paper. Who do you wish to be? Write that down, too. Don’t forget, you only have 160 characters, so whittle it down to what is most important. Students and graduates should definitely include your college or university; your major and year in school; your leadership roles and past successes, on campus and elsewhere; and your career aspiration.

Show that you can write.

My best advice to aspiring and young journalists: Abide by the Associated Press Stylebook as much as possible in your tweets and your twesume. Always use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. Remember the adage about doing what’s right even when no one’s looking? Well, demonstrating good writing in short bursts helps prove you take it seriously.

Always consider your audience.

Don’t be cute. One high school journalism student I met this summer had this for her twesume: “Just try to faze me.” How do you think a recruiter would respond to that? Be professional. I tell my students all the time to consider John Maxwell’s “Law of Magnetism.” Maxwell says that “who you are is who you attract.” Will your twesume attract the kind of company you want to work for? Make sure your bio won’t make you squirm if asked about it during an interview.

Show a little of your personality. Use every character afforded. Don’t stop at 135 just because you have cited all the basics. It’s OK to list or note an acceptable hobby or passion at the end. I know that my cat-loving students will rejoice at this privilege. So, too, will those with favorite sports teams. Proclaiming one’s faith is also nice, but using half a twesume to do so could be too much.

Don’t distract from the goal.

Your wonderful twesume might not matter if your Twitter photo and handle are unacceptable. Remember, journalism students should use Twitter to attract and impress a following that includes potential employers. The photo should not include your BFF or seem too silly. Also, having your first and last names as your handle is ideal, even if you must use an underscore or numbers. The more a recruiter sees your name, the more likely he or she might commit it to memory. Isn’t that what every job applicant wants?

“Make your Twitter bio blue.”

This is what Sreenivasan told us educators at Teachapalooza that he tells his students. Allow me to translate: Use Twitter handles for organizations and institutions and hashtags for keywords and topics that can help your bio appear in various and broad searches. You want as many people to see your twesume as possible. You never know which pair of eyes can help you get that job.

Have some place else for them to go.

Every young journalist or journalism student should have a personal website or digital portfolio on the Internet. It’s wise to put a Web link in the place designated beneath the 160 characters. Those without a website or portfolio can put a link to their LinkedIn page. Make yours worthy of others’ attention. Some journalists also like to put their contact information in their Twitter handles so that sources can easily contact them.

Keep it updated.

Remember Sreenivasan’s advice about the twesume reflecting “the best, most recent version of you.” Do you have a new internship or a new job? Then refresh the bio accordingly. Take, for example, recent college graduate Erika J. Glover (@erikajglover), who in late June had this bio: “South Carolina born – Pennsylvania tested Reporter/Anchor for the @CentreCountyRep. PSU Alumna/Journalist/Travel Enthusiast”

We changed it in early July to “2012 @penn_state grad! Aspiring international #journalist seeking first TV reporting job. #NABJ member ready to shoot, edit & write! Purveying #Olympics facts.” Which version was more likely to draw more eyes (from recruiters) her way via Twitter and Internet searches?

After the Olympics ended, she smartly revised again: “2012 @penn_state grad! Aspiring international #journalist seeking first TV reporting job. #NABJ member ready to shoot, edit & write! Founder of @BlackKidsTravel.” She simply added a new passion.

Here are some other #twesumes that I think work well.

Daniel L. Jimenez (@DMJreports):

Taylor Shaw (@TaylorShaw_427):

Eva L. Sotomayor (@sotomayoreva):

Brianna Stubler (@BriStubler):

Among Sreenivasan’s many wonderful Twitter lists is one called “Effective Twitter bios.” Imagine if he thought enough of your twesume to add it to that list; that would be pretty cool. You can see my twesume at @herbertlowe. Please do let me know what you think.

  • Herbert Lowe

    Herbert Lowe is a professional-in-residence in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University.


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