I’d started working with two new clients in the same week.
This was a few years ago, when I was a blogging and social media consultant.
They both asked me smart, insightful questions on the very first day—stuff that made me feel how lucky I was to be playing in their sandbox.
“I want you to help me figure out who I am,” said one, an accomplished executive coach with a highly specialized, very cool niche, “and how to build an online identity that shows how unique I am.”
I wanted to get up right then and there and do a backflip. (I didn’t, though. There wasn’t enough room in that particular Starbucks.)
The other client, a leadership development trainer, said, “I want a bio for my blog, which shows my values and personality, complete with my crazy sense of humor.”
Here were two people who clearly got how important it is to have a face and a unique voice on the web.
Because—let’s face it—you are just a speck in the online galaxy.
Every day, tens of millions of people are shouting for attention.
And how you explain who you are and what you do will make your visitors want to either walk through your door, or run for the emergency exit.
Why you need a memorable bio
Did you know that your About page or online bio is often the second most-viewed page on your website or blog?
It’s the first place your readers will go, if the content on your home page has impressed them. They want to know the real you. They want the story behind the business.
A good bio can separate you from the masses and help you rise above About pages that are written in faceless corporate-speak.
But writing a bio can be tricky.
A bio can be a crazy hard thing to write.
It can feel uncomfortable to talk about yourself.
You don’t want to come across as self-centered, yet you want to capture your unique self in all its splendor.
How do you write a bio that gets to the core of who you are and makes your readers want to get to know you better?
Regardless of the audience you want to attract and your blog’s goals, smart use of writing techniques can make your bio—and you—unforgettable.
5 tips for crafting a memorable online bio
1. Share your backstory.
In fiction writing, your backstory usually tells readers what they need to know about the character—experiences and events that shaped her, and impact her thinking and behavior as the story moves along.
Whether you sell products or services, whether you blog or write books, people have a natural curiosity about your background and the experiences that brought you to where you are today.
You might call this your backstory.
I once helped a business coach write her bio. She told a story of going from “broke, busted and disgusted” to becoming an award-winning coach and nationally renowned speaker.
It was an important story because it showed her readers that she gets what it means to be stuck, understands the barriers to growth, and knows how to get people on the road to living a life of passion.
Your story helps us understand your personal journey, and we remember it long after the telling is over.
2. Provide detail, appeal to the senses, and use ‘sticky’ words.
When we read a good story, our brains are hardwired to remember it.
A ‘sticky’ story is one the reader can’t get out of her brain because she is left with a picture in her mind.
Think of the reader’s brain as Velcro. You want your words to stick, so she will remember them.
Research shows that almost 60% people are visual learners; that is, they respond better to printed text and images. That is how they process and remember information. Try including some image-rich (“picture”) words in your bio.
Let’s look at a couple of rewrites:
Original:“I am working on finishing my first book.”
Rewrite: “I am in a race to the finish line with my first full-length memoir.”
Original: “I love reading, adopting animals and collecting antiques.”
Rewrite: “In my spare time I love reading 19th century novels, preparing gourmet meals for stray cats and collecting those little snow globe thingies.”
Do you see how adding details and using more image-rich words makes your bio more interesting?
3. Choose unique and relevant personal facts.
The best bio writers are not afraid to show us a little bit of their souls.
They might tell you about something they have done that makes them unique.
Or maybe their work is directly connected to a lifelong passion or some past experiences, which they share.
But just as a story and a blog post must have a point, so should personal facts.
Look at it from a storytelling angle, and pick relevant things to share.
For instance, the fact that you had a job selling shoes the summer before your senior year of college holds no interest for your readers. Unless you learned an important lesson that summer that makes you better at what you do today.
For the same reason, I don’t talk about my degrees in education in my bio. It mattered when I was looking for teaching positions, but not so much, now that I am an author.
So skip the dull résumé. You want laser-focused information here.
4. Make emotional connections with your readers.
You want the reader to think, “Yeah, that has happened to me, too,” or “I know just how she felt.”
Leave the cardboard cutout at the doorstep. Let your readers in close and build an emotional connection with them.
Just as we love reading stories with unique, lively characters, readers like getting to know the real you, quirks and all.
When one of my clients replied to my bio questionnaire, he included a story about how he came to be a career specialist. He told the story of a near-death experience. On a backpacking trip, he lost his footing while crossing a stream, and was swept away into more turbulent waters. He came close to drowning.
Normally, I’d think twice about including that in a bio. But this story showed clearly that his passion for helping people find the work that lights them up, came directly from this experience.
Because, as he said to me, “There are no do-overs in life.”
We kept it.
5. Use humor if it fits your personality.
Humor is also a good way to reach your readers on an emotional level.
John Cleese, Monty Python actor and creator of Silly Walks, nails it:
If I can get you to laugh with me, you like me better, which makes you more open to my ideas.
Here’s an example from my About page, which lists “7 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me”:
I can speak four languages.
I know French, English, Spanish and Swahili. (I can only say “Four knives will be sufficient” in Swahili, but you never know when that will come in handy.)
So how do you know if you’ve done your About page right?
Your online bio should make the reader feel like they’ve met you.
And having met you, they like you. And want to get to know you better.
If you’ve got that, you’re off to a great start!
What about you—have you ever been stuck writing your bio?
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