You’re a complex person. There’s an exact way you like your coffee prepared. Specific after-work activities are your jam. You’ve managed to survive a degree program at that really impressive school. And you really love hanging out with your pet who has an awesome name. But how much—if any—of that information needs to be shared? And with whom?

There’s several different types of bios that you should have up-to-date and accessible at all times.

Social Media Profile Bio

We live in an age where the profile biography is king. That short snippet of type defines you as an individual and is the basis of opinion for hundreds if not thousands of potential friends and customers. You desperately need to get it right. Here are 3 things to remember:

1. It’s all about the audience.

You are probably writing to a reader on a mobile device. They aren’t interested in an in-depth novel about who you truly believe you are. They want the cliffs notes version of you. Here’s a great example from Shauna Niequist’s IG profile: writer, mom of boys, snack enthusiast, bookworm. Chicago. She follows this with the website of her newest book. It gives you a quick look at her, and where to go to learn more. It’s all you need! Don’t overthink it.

2. Stagnant profiles are like swamps. They stink.

If you’ve recently made a change to any part of your mission/values/ideals – make sure that your profile reflects that. If you are primarily writing a blog, update the link in your profile with every new post. If you’re a business, update the link every time you feature an item. Keep it current.

3. A picture is worth fewer words than you think.

Emojis can be useful for certain brands aiming at a very specific audience. But if you’re trying to reach beyond the 14-24 crowd, emojis get confusing fast. You also can’t guarantee that the same emoji is being displayed across all platforms and devices. Use them in posts, but don’t use them in your profile.

Author Bio for Published Articles

Many of you are aspiring writers, sending off articles and pitches to websites and publishers in an effort to get your words out there. Way to go! We love hearing from you and are excited to have a chance to help disseminate what God has placed in your heart. But—take this in the kindest way possible—your bios could use a bit of work. Here’s a few tips to make sure editors don’t send you a rejection letter based on your bio alone:

1. Style is specific.

Each and every publication has a different style for bios. Some want them quirky and personal. Some are all business. Some are a mix of the two. Just like you read the articles to get an idea of the style and theme of a publication prior to submitting your work, read the bios too! And if your usual bio doesn’t fit, tweak it. Remove weird punctuation (I’m looking at you, + users), edit your list of achievements, decide how personal you should be and (like your grandmother always said) never reveal your age. If you’re young, often your age will count against you with editors wondering if you’re too green. If you’re older, opposite problem.

2. Watch your word count.

Here at G&V we shoot for around 50 words, which is pretty common by Internet standards. There are some that give you a whole column, some that are just a byline. Before hitting the submit button, count the words of the bios on the last 3 articles published on the platform. Make sure yours is in that range. If it isn’t, it’s not you that gets to decide how important your coffee habit, your spouse’s name, or your graduate degree is. The editor will make the cuts.

3. Link it up.

If you’re being published online, feel free to throw links into your bio (as long as it’s in the style of the publication). Link to your website, your most-active social media account (be sure it’s not set to private!!), wherever you want to drive people to visit. All this can be done without the http:// or www. Those clutter up the bio and make it look unprofessional. List out your site as and link that if you must. But don’t copy and paste the browser address into your bio. Please do send along the exact addresses, we have a specific place for you to put them on the submission form or paste them underneath your bio if there’s no other place.

Speaker Bio for Conferences or Events

This bio type is really dependent on the organizer of the event. Often, you will get specific guidelines for bios. Follow these to the letter. If you don’t receive that incredibly helpful information, I suggest you send in at least 2 bio formats: long and short. This gives the organizers flexibility and it gives you more control about what is printed about you. If you have been to the conference or event before, you have a better idea of what’s required. If not, request materials (digital or hard copy) from the previous year’s conference. Also, conference materials are notoriously printed last-minute and barely proofed. If you have an error in your bio when you submit, you can expect to see it in hard copy when you arrive at the conference. Be sure that you have done all you can to look as good as possible.

While the words of your article or talk are what will ultimately get you published or invited to speak, your bio is the business card you leave with the reader. It’s how they learn more about you, the map to the next step in building a relationship with you and your brand. Don’t consider writing your bio a waste of time or a leave-to-the-last-minute item. You worked hard to get to this point. Be sure you capitalize on your success!

There’s several other types of bios I haven’t mentioned and if you would like help or have questions, feel free to put them in the comments below. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Megan Stevens

Megan Stevens is embracing her recent move to the South, enjoying the hospitality of Northern Alabama with her husband, 3 year old daughter and soon-to-arrive baby. Megan is passionate about community, celebration and life around the table.

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