The Long and the Short of Bitly

We’ve all clicked on links that have a company’s name in the URL, but have you ever followed a branded link through to a site other than the company in the URL? Being taken to the BBC or another news outlet when not expecting it can initially be confusing, I know, but this is the magic of a Bitly link.

Before you ask, Bitly is not what Yorkshire people shorten a ‘bit of Tetley’ down to - for one, everyone knows that they’d be drinking Yorkshire tea instead. Bitly is a URL shortening service that companies can use to track their content sharing online, focusing particularly on social media channels.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, here’s an example:

Example of Bitly links on Twitter

The bottom tweet has ‘venndigital’ in the URL because it is a link to a blog post on our website and the one above looks almost identical. However, when you click this top tweet you are redirected to an article on Search Engine Land’s website, nothing to do with our site at all.

Example of a page accessed via a Bitly link

This is because Bitly allows companies to generate user domain names when they shorten their links. The intention is to raise brand awareness because wherever the URL is shared, people will recognise your company’s name in the link.

Social media should be an essential part of any company’s marketing strategy and businesses should be posting regularly with industry news, links and general interest stories happening at work.

As a business, you wouldn’t send an email, write a letter or present at an important meeting without making sure it was all branded to the company standard. This same principle should apply to your online presence on social channels where the Bitly tool enables you to brand every piece of content that you share.

Bitly shortens nearly half a billion links every month, which puts into perspective how dominant link sharing is. If there’s an industry relevant news story, it is likely that the majority of your competitors are going to share it too. The Bitly link is what distinguishes you from them, and makes your social presence unique.

Adding a unique company tag to the links you post online is not just a branding exercise though, you are also able to track the number of times it has been shared, who else has shared it and how your link has done in comparison with them.

This means that you can test the style of content you send out and see which subjects or articles your followers are most responsive to. Using this data and adjusting your approach can help you go some way towards making your brand the go-to channel for your industry.

It’s important to note that there is no negative side to the site whose content you’re sharing. They get the traffic, shares and exposure they would do anyway, you just get your own link to ensure your brand is present and the link’s performance is measurable.

Although Bitly began as the default URL shortener for Twitter, it has evolved to become an online, personal URL tracker. The change is clear because Facebook now accounts for just 7% of their traffic and even Twitter is only responsible for 8% of Bitly activity.

Your links are no longer limited to social channels, they’re shared in emails and direct messages, over online games and forums and just about any channel. A personalised URL allows you to raise brand awareness because when your content is being passed from pillar to post, your name is right there for everyone to see.

A business should make sure their name is on everything they share. You never know where a tweet or link will end up and when the piece of content you share goes viral, do you want your name on it or do you want someone else to have that brand exposure?

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