Back in the day, tinyURL was all the rage. This simple service took a really long URL that you wanted to stick in an email or in a message board, and shortened for you. The proposition seemed pretty straightforward, and no one thought that there was any room for improvement.
But as the social web evolved and people started passing around links to their friends or posting them on their Facebook or Twitter accounts, marketers wanted to understand reach. If I pass this link around, how can I tell how many people reposted it? Backlink analysis tools existed for years, but who the heck blogs any more, right?
bit.ly is a URL shortening service that you might already be familiar with. For many years, it was the default shortening mechanism for Twitter, although they recently came up with their own shortening service, t.co (Twitter wants that data! But they have no analytics yet). But what you might not know about bit.ly is that you can take any bit.ly URL and add a “+” to see the analytics for that link.
The time scale for the # of clicks changes over time. In the first hour, it’s reported in minutes, but later, it’s reported by days, etc. You can change the scale with the select list on the right. You’ll even notice the QR code in the corner for those of you with QR readers, but I’ve personally always found those scary. They just don’t look pretty.
By the way, this is what it looks like when Ashton Kutcher tweets to his 8 million+ followers.
Anyone can take any bit.ly link and see the analytics, so there’s no privacy around this data. This might give you pause, but I think that’s being overly paranoid.
Yesterday, we talked about using Google Analytics Real-Time to understand the social interaction of your marketing campaigns (e.g. tweeting a new gallery, emailing a monthly photography newsletter). The bit.ly analytics provide you with a similar way to see clicks over time.
How should photographers use bit.ly?
First, I prefer bit.ly over t.co or other shortening services because you can 1) see the analytics, and 2) customize the link (e.g. http://bit.ly/photobootcamp). So if you’re considering your social activity as a business marketing function, I think it pays to take a few seconds to use bit.ly instead of another shortening service.
One you are able to see the click analytics, I think you have another way to measure whether your social interactions have any legs. When you post a link, do people click on it? How quickly does that activity tail off? Can you experiment with different times of day to generate more user interaction?
We’ll continue to say it, but you need to understand why you’re looking at analytical data, and figure out how you can create better decisions for your business.