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How To Set Up Your Twitter Profile

This post is part of a series called Twitter for Freelancers.
Is Twitter Worth it for Freelancers?
What Should Freelancers Tweet About?

You've decided Twitter might be a good fit for your business, and you want to give it a whirl. In this article, I provide a step-by-step overview to setting up your profile and freelance brand on Twitter.

I don't get too deep into the technical side of things. If you're web savvy enough to be on Twitter, chances are you can navigate your way around the site. Rather, I show you what's important from a marketing perspective. If you need more in-depth technical help with setting up your profile, you can check out the Twitter Help Center.

Let's get started with setting up your freelance presence on Twitter.

The Twitter Sign Up Process

Signing up to Twitter is a breeze. You provide your name, email address, and a password. You're then asked for a username -- we'll come to that in a moment -- before being taken on a whistle-stop tour of who you could follow. Twitter suggests celebrities, media companies, and big businesses. Unless you plan to use Twitter to keep up with famous people or brands, you can skip this step, by typing into your web browser's address bar.

Choosing Your Twitter Username

Twitter displays your username beside all your Tweets, so your followers will see it over and over again.

The best Twitter usernames are short, simple and memorable. Short, because that makes it easier for your followers to share your Tweets through retweeting; memorable, because when your followers remember your name, it's easier for them to send you a tweet or give you a shout out.

I recommend using your real name or your business name. If these are particularly long (Twitter has a 15 character limit on usernames), then use an abbreviated version.

To maintain a strong brand, it's a good idea to choose the same username for all your social media accounts. This can be impossible if you've been using one social network for a while, then you start using another social network. If you're setting up all your social networks at once, however, this step gives you a lifelong brand on social media. The website helps you find a username that's available on all social networks.

How to Write Your Twitter Biography

Once you've chosen your username, your next step is to write your Twitter biography. This is your 160 characters to sell yourself to the Twittersphere. Many people who come across your profile will decide whether or not to follow you based on your biography. It matters.

To update your Twitter biography, click the cog beside the search bar, then select "Settings".

Once you're inside the settings page, click "Profile" in the sidebar.

Enter your biography into the bio box, on the left.

Here are my top tips to help you write your biography:

  • Write something. Anything you write (short of the absurd or the obscene) is better than nothing. Twitter accounts with a biography have eight times as many followers compared to those without. What's more, research by Life Analytics found a biography is the most important factor in attracting followers. More than 80% of Twitter accounts with only a handful of followers lack a biography. Whatever you write, you can always change it later.
  • Aim it at clients. Explain what you do, and how you help the people that hire you.
  • Let people know what matters to you. Share your hobbies and passions. Why is your work important to you? One caveat: it's a good idea to keep your political and religious beliefs to your personal Twitter account.
  • Slip in your keywords. Biographies are searchable on Twitter. Include relevant keywords to help people find you. For example, my keywords are "writer", "freelance" and "marketing".
  • Use Twitter bios from people you admire as models. Search out the thought leaders in your sector on Twitter using Twitter's search bar. How do they write their Twitter biographies? Choose the bios that most resonate with you, and use them as a model for writing yours. Don't copy their biography, you're not them, and that's plagiarism. Rather, use a similar structure or style.
  • Add a sprinkle of magic dust. Show your personality. Write with voice, flair and wit. Don't be afraid to be funny.
  • Update it regularly. As you change, your business changes, and your clients change, make sure your Twitter bio changes with you. I update mine around once every three months.

Your Twitter Website Link

In addition to your biography (which can include links), Twitter allows you to share a link to your website. The obvious thing to do is link to the homepage of your freelance business site. For many freelancers whose website is up to scratch, this is enough.

Alternatively, you could link to:

  • Your blog. If you blog regularly, this is a good option as it's a way of deepening the engagement with people who've met you on Twitter without going for the hard sell.
  • A dedicated landing page. This is best for freelancers who stay in touch with prospects through an email list. Put together a landing page that welcomes people who've met you on Twitter, explains what you do and how you help clients, and includes an email opt-in form. As with all email marketing, giving away a free report, ebook or ecourse to people who sign up will boost conversion rates.
  • Another one of your social media accounts, such as Facebook, Google+ or Quora. If you use a particular social media site as your online engagement hub, then this is a good choice.

Your Twitter Images

Twitter allows you to upload three different images to personalize your account: a profile picture, a header and a background image.

You can change your profile picture and header in the Profile section of the settings page.

Your Twitter Avatar

Your profile picture, or avatar, is by far the most important image you'll upload to Twitter. Accounts with a profile picture attract an average of ten times as many followers compared to those without. A big reason for this is that profiles without an avatar don't show up in search results.

Your avatar should be a square of at least 128 x 128 pixels. Choose a picture of your face, smiling. This builds trust, because it demonstrates that you're a human being your followers can relate to and engage with, rather than a spam bot or a faceless corporation.

Your Twitter Header

Headers are a recent addition to the Twitter universe, and are a good way of adding personality and branding to your Twitter page. They appear at the top of your Twitter feed, beneath your avatar and biography. If you choose not to add a header, Twitter simply fills in the space with a dark gray color.

Find or create an image that promotes your work, or your brand and personality. For example, freelance writer and blogger Joanna Penn uses the space to promote her books:

PR consultant Amy Schmittauer opts for a sophisticated, simple look that reflects her Sexy Savvy Social brand:

Marketing strategist Pam Moore uses her header to display her credentials as a top 10 social media influencer:

Your header should be a minimum of 520 x 260 pixels. Also bear in mind that Twitter overlays your header with a black gradient fill to ensure the white text of your name and biography show up.

Your Twitter Background

Twitter allows you to choose the background to your Page. Twitter provides a range of options to choose from.

The background image is set in the Design section of the settings page.

Overall, how you engage with others on Twitter is far more important than which background image or header you choose. That said, you can use the background as a way of building brand recognition, and promoting your services, website and social media profile.

If you'd like to create your own background, or hire a designer to put one together for you, Psdtuts+ has a good selection of tips on designing your Twitter background. Pay particular attention to tips six and seven. Both of the featured Twitter profiles use their background image to promote their services, website and contact details.

For a full screen background, the recommended resolution is 1600 x 1200 pixels.

Your Twitter Foundation

Your username, biography, and profile picture are the foundation of your branding on Twitter. With these set up - and potentially a background and header for good measure - you're ready to start Tweeting, reaching out, building your following, and making connections with other freelancers and potential clients.

If making your Twitter account perfect before you go out and find followers seems stressful - don't panic! Making anything perfect is stressful, and impossible. Instead, do what you can. This is especially true on social media, which is never finished. With each new tweet, your Twitter account grows and evolves. Social media is always a work in progress.

If you already have a profile picture ready, setting up your Twitter account -- including writing your biography and researching a username -- needn't take longer than an hour. What are you waiting for?

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