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Your Twitter profile is perhaps the single most important component of your tweeting presence.

Your Twitter name helps identify you.

Your profile picture establishes your individuality and helps you stand out in the timeline.

Your profile tells people why you are on Twitter and gives the biggest clue as to whether you are worth following.

It also determines whether you will show up in search results.

So what should you put in it?

One hundred and sixty

Twitter knows your profile is important and allows you 160 characters, an extra 20 on top of the traditional 140, to get it right.

Whenever someone follow me on Twitter, I look at their profile to see if I should follow them back.

My default position is always to follow someone back unless they are a business looking to sell me something (or a pornbot!).

I don’t pay much attention to how many followers they have, people join Twitter all the while and we all started with no followers.

I do read the profile carefully though. I want to know who someone is, what they are interested in and I usually add them to one of my lists (probation, police, harm reduction, payment by results etc.).

Here are the profile entries for some people I didn’t follow:

“Somerset girl, love my cats and her Bobby”

“I love Twitter, I love chocolate and red wine too”

“PhD student into running and organic baking”

“Writer, journalist, trainer, Brummie”

There’s nothing wrong with these profiles for personal accounts, but I tweet for work, so I want to know why someone is following me.

If you are Tweeting about your work, make it clear what you do.

Tweeting for probation trusts or police forces

If you are one of a number of people tweeting for a probation trust or police force, I recommend you split your profile roughly 80/20/60.


The 80 characters, as well as being approved centrally, should use plain English, no jargon. No acronyms.

People generally know what the police do, they’re not so sure about the probation service.

So choose your words carefully – “Protecting the Public” as a phrase on its own doesn’t really convey much, however accurate it might be.

The challenge for probation trusts is to get both parts of their message over – that they rehabilitate offenders who want to reform but breach/recall those who don’t, won’t or can’t.

I think these phrases are in the right area:

Reducing crime. Reforming offenders. Fewer Victims. Working with police and courts to…

“Change and control the behaviour of offenders”. Thanks to @SWMGP for that last one.

Some trusts may want to adopt the new language of “punishment”, others may not.

One last word of advice, once you have agreed a form of words, make sure you use the same one on your Trust/Force Facebook page.


Describe your job in plain English, no acronyms.

20 characters is not a lot, so practise first:

“I run the approved premises” is 27 characters.

“Hostel Manager” is 13.

A lot of people include where they are based in their profile description but there’s no need, because Twitter displays your location at the end of your profile. Better to save the characters – especially if you are based in Wolverhampton or Llandridnod Wells. Make sure you fill in that field though – many Tweeters follow services local to them.


You can do pretty much what you want with your 60 characters – your interests, hobbies, (publishable) quirks.

A motto or favourite saying. A lot of blokes (and some women) mention their football team. Just try not to make it a list, add a bit of flavour.

The best Twitter accounts, the ones that attract the most followers, are the ones which are personal, which have something interesting to say.

Link to more information

One mistake that lots of people make (albeit for exactly the right reason) is that they include their Trust/Force website in their 160 characters.

It is vital to link to the website – and the particular section of it which deals with your team, or your Facebook page if that gives a better flavour of what you do.

But Twitter lets you do that anyway in your profile. Like your location, the web address doesn’t count towards your 160.

So that’s stage one complete. You have a snappy & informative twittername; a distinctive (and attractive) picture and a descriptive and engaging profile.

It’s time to start Tweeting.

Next Wednesday: what makes a great tweet.

Have a good week till next week.


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