URL Shorteners: The Unsung Hero Of Social Media Marketing

Photo by wkri, via Flickr


By Kristina Cisnero | 1 year ago | No Comments

We often forget the unsung hero of our social media posts, the URL. We put so much effort into creating great content, with nary a thought to this little string of characters. But it can be crucial to its success  when you use the right URL shortener. In this post we’re going to talk about what are URL shorteners, why you should use them, and answer some frequently asked questions about shortened URLs.

What are URL Shorteners?

A URL shortener converts a regular URL into a more condensed format. In other words, it takes a long url and makes them shorter. Some URL shorteners provide you tracking abilities so you can track how many clicks you receive on the URL.

3 popular URL shorteners

1. bit.ly is a URL shortening service that offers tracking metrics so you know exactly how many people are clicking on your link. Something to keep in mind though is that bit.ly tracks all clicks, even non-human clicks. It’s a free service where you can share links directly from their site to your Twitter profile.

This image highlights the Bit.ly url shortener

2. goo.gl is Google’s official URL shortener. You don’t need to create an account, it’s Free, and it offers you data on how many times your link has been clicked. You can go back to the site whenever you need to gather information on your links. This image highlights the Google URL Shortener

3. ow.ly is Hootsuite’s built in URL shortener that you can access via your Hootsuite dashboard or on the ow.ly site. This link shortener allows you to upload images, track real-time clicks that doesn’t include clicks from bots, and you have the ability to post it to your various social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+. You can also use the shortened URL in emails or on your website and use Hootsuite’s URL click stats to track how many clicks those links receive.

Shorten your URL via ow.lyThis image shows that you can shorten your url via the Ow.ly URL Shortener

OR shorten your URL via the Hootsuite dashboard
This images shows you that you can shorten your URL via the Hootsuite URL Shortener

Why you should use a URL shortener?

The main reason why you should use URL shorteners is to be provided with the data on how people behave when they are faced with your shortened URL. If you post a long URL you won’t be able to track real-time engagement with it or clicks, but when you shorten a URL you’ll be able to track click-through rates and even track where they are clicking from.

For example, the Ow.ly URL shortener serves an important purpose: tracking how many people click your links receive. With the Ow.ly tool you can see a quick snapshot of the number of clicks on any link you shortened within HootSuite, insight that you can use to determine what Tweets and posts resonate most with your followers. If 800 people click on a URL in a funny Tweet promoting your new shopping app but only 200 people click on a URL in a more serious Tweet, this knowledge can be applied in future posts. In other words, URL click data can be used to increase the chances of your followers clicking a link.

This image is an example of the Hootsuite URL Shortener working via the ow.ly click summary report, which offers a quick snapshot of your social media activities.

FAQs about URL Shorteners

1. Why do I need to shorten my url?
The most popular reason to shorten a URL is to avoid exceeding Twitter’s 140 character limit. Another reason, but less obvious, is to track and measure how many clicks you receive on a URL. A lot of businesses use URL shorteners so they can see how well a post is performing based on how many clicks the URL in the post received.

2. Are shortened URLs only for Twitter?
No, they are not. You can use shortened URLs on any social network and even in emails or on your website. As long as you have the proper social media analytics tools to measure the performance of your shortened URLs, then you can use them on any of your online assets.

3. What’s the difference between Hootsuite’s URL shorteners?
The Hootsuite dashboard offers four URL shorteners: ow.ly, owl.li, ht.ly, and htl.li. Each URL shortener ends with the country where the domain name is registered (.li is for Liechtenstein and .ly is for Libya). This means the difference between ow.ly and owl.li, for example, is simply where the server is located. Otherwise, both URL shorteners can be used interchangeably. However, ht.ly and htl.li include the same ability to track click stats as ow.ly and owl.li, but are also equiped with Hootsuite’s Social Sharing Bar. The Social Sharing Bar displays at the top of the image or web page, and encourages users to rate and re-share content.

4. What are Vanity or Branded URLs?
A vanity URL is a web address that is branded for marketing purposes. They are a custom branded URL that replaces one of the above URL shorteners listed above and uses your company’s branding. They provide the same information as a shortened URL, but instead of showing up as ow.ly or a bit.ly, it could show up looking like Time Inc.’s vanity URL “ti.me”. They are one of the many organizations making use of vanity URLs.

Use Hootsuite Pro’s URL shortener and Vanity URLs today!

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25 comments
aj
aj

We purchased a branded (vanity) domain, linked it to our Hootsuite account, upgraded to a Pro account, and made our first branded short URL. How do we change the hash portion---the string of characters after our branded domain?


Thanks!

aj

Hootsuite_Help_Desk
Hootsuite_Help_Desk moderator

@aj


Hi Aj,


Thank you for reaching out, my name is Monika and I'm more than happy to help you.


To confirm, the hash characters are automatically generated when the link is shortened. 


For example, if a link to a blog post was changed after it had been posted, the link would no longer direct to the blog post.


My apologies for any inconvenience.


If you do have any more questions or concerns please reach out to us either via Facebook private message or via Twitter (@Hootsuite_Help). 


Regards,


Monika | Customer Advocate | hootsuite.com/help

anon
anon

Thanks for posting - I have one additional question.


If I shrink a URL with a Facebook page selected, can I post this directly to Facebook at a later time and still get the same tracking as if it was posted through hootsuite? 


Hootsuite_Help_Desk
Hootsuite_Help_Desk moderator

@anon Hi there! 

Thank you for reaching out to the Hootsuite Team via our Blog. I would be happy to clarify further. 

To track URL stats, the shortened URL would need to be associated with a Twitter handle at the time of sending. Once Twitter is selected from the Compose Message Box and the link is shrunk and sent out, you can copy the link and later paste it into Facebook to get the tracking details. 

I hope this helps to clarify! 

Thanks again for reaching out to us. 

If we can assist further with any questions, please reach out to us on Twitter, @Hootsuite_help or via Private Message on our Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/hootsuite and we would be happy to help!

Kind regards, 


Gary | @HootSuite_Help | HootSuite Help Desk - http://ow.ly/dBnBz


KudosMedia
KudosMedia

Hi Can you please clarify what this means: 


"At this time, all Ow.ly analytics require the links to be sent via a Twitter profile."


What if I shorten a link in my Dashboard, and then copy that link and post it directly to a Facebook post. Will that link be tracked?


Hootsuite_Help_Desk
Hootsuite_Help_Desk moderator

@KudosMedia Great question!

When shrinking the URL, please have the Twitter account selected (along with the Facebook account) as well. 

This will link the URL with the Twitter profile selected, and this is what's required to track the URL.

As long as Twitter is selected at the time of URL, you'll be able to unselect Twitter and post to only Facebook :)

I hope this clarifies!

Mika | Customer Advocate | hootsuite.com/help

KudosMedia
KudosMedia

@Hootsuite_Help_Desk @KudosMedia Hi Mia, Thanks for the reply. can I confirm, if Twitter was not selected at the time of the link being shortened, but it was still posted to Twitter, will that be tracked? 


I am also interested in the question from "ANON" above... 

Hootsuite_Help_Desk
Hootsuite_Help_Desk moderator

Hi @KudosMedia,

Have a look at the question above for @anon it's been updated with a reply recently!

Also the links would be tracked in the same matter if lifted from Facebook or LinkedIn and then posted through Hootsuite. The other way around wouldn't garner the same results. 

Hopefully this provided clarity to your request but should you want a more immediate response please feel free reach out to us on Twitter, @Hootsuite_help or via Private Message on our Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/hootsuite or live chat via www.hootsuite.com

Best regards,

Camille | Customer Advocate | hootsuite.com/help

KudosMedia
KudosMedia

@Hootsuite_Help_Desk @KudosMedia Please clarify... if a link is NOT posted through Hootsuite Dashboard it will NOT be tracked at all... even if it was created in Hootsuite with Twitter selected?

Hootsuite_Help_Desk
Hootsuite_Help_Desk moderator

@KudosMedia @Hootsuite_Help_Desk Thank you for your reply. To clarify, a Twitter account must be selected and the link must be sent to Twitter at the time of shrinking. Once the link has been sent to Twitter, you can copy and paste the link for other social networks and tracking will still be captured. 


I hope this helps to clarify!


Kind regards, 


Gary | @HootSuite_Help | HootSuite Help Desk - http://ow.ly/dBnBz

arj
arj

Hi - I am struggling to get images to show correctly when I use the hootlet - see example - instead of the target web site that I am commenting on showing up it it has that nasty phrase - check out this link.  That cannot be right!  I am going wrong somewhere?  Is it linked to what shortener I am using?  Thanks  anthony

Julie ABC
Julie ABC

@Hootsuite_Help_Desk I'm getting the same problem too, but only for the past week or so - I assumed something in Hootsuite had changed.

Hootsuite_Help_Desk
Hootsuite_Help_Desk moderator

@Julie ABC Hi Julie!

Where you able to try reconnecting the social networks selected when using Hootlet?  

As Mika commented, if the issue persists, please reach out to us @Hootsuite_help on Twitter or via chat at hootsuite.com/help so that we can further investigate.

Kind regards, Taavi W. | Customer Advocate | hootsuite.com/help

MaryJeanAdams
MaryJeanAdams

I shorten most of my links by using Hootsuite, even if I don't want to post the Tweet right away. e.g., When I'm preparing tweets to bulk upload later. Do these shortened urls expire? I'm guessing the answer is "no" but just wanted to be sure.


On a side note, I'd love to see a bulk autoschedule feature. As a matter of principle, I'm against automating my Twitter interaction. However, if I autoschedule a few standard tweets like my blog posts and the occasional book promo, that leaves me more time for real interaction.

Hootsuite_Help_Desk
Hootsuite_Help_Desk moderator

@MaryJeanAdams Hello there,

No, shortened Ow.ly links do not expire if they are not posted right away.  They can be posted at any time later on, and will still be active.

Thanks for your feedback on bulk scheduling and auto-scheduling!  We do not have any plans for automating bulk scheduler at this time I'm afraid, but if you're only posting a few automated tweets you can auto-schedule them directly: https://help.hootsuite.com/hc/en-us/articles/204586040#2

If you have more questions please feel free to tweet us @Hootsuite_Help, or chat us through hootsuite.com/help !

Taavi W. | Customer Advocate | hootsuite.com/help

annandahappy
annandahappy

Shortening URLs has earned much popularity for it's usefulness because it helps in may ways to manipulate websites in a befitting way!

Hootsuite_Help_Desk
Hootsuite_Help_Desk moderator

@ArkansasUmc Hi there! 

Thanks for reaching out to us, I'm happy to address your concerns. 

While there is no known issues with ow.ly, what you're experiencing is unexpected. As such, I welcome you to reach out to us on Twitter @hootsuite_help  if you're still running into these issues so that we can take a look at what you're seeing! 

Best,

Jocelyne | @Hootsuite_Help | Hootsuite Help Desk - http://ow.ly/dBnBz


ArkansasUmc
ArkansasUmc

Is Owl.li down? It and Htl.li seem to be generating HTTP 500 errors on all sites linked to with them.

Hootsuite_Help_Desk
Hootsuite_Help_Desk moderator

Hi @ArkansasUmc,

Thanks for reaching out to us via our blog, my name is Camille from the Help Desk and I'd be happy to assist you in this matter!

Are you currently facing these issues or have since this post they've been resolved?

If we can assist further, please reach out to us on Twitter, @Hootsuite_help or via Private Message on our Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/hootsuite or live chat via www.hootsuite.com

Best regards,

Camille | Customer Advocate | hootsuite.com/help

Jason
Jason

Are vanity URL's available with HootSuite Pro or do I have to purchase additional Owly Pro? I'm confused based on the message in the settings part for adding Vanity URL's

Hootsuite_Help_Desk
Hootsuite_Help_Desk moderator

@Jason Hi Jason, happy to clarify.  Vanity URLs are only available for Pro accounts, however you would need to add it as an additional feature.  It is not included in the base pricing for Hootsuite Pro.  To add Vanity URLs as a feature, please log into your Dashboard and going to https://www.hootsuite.com/billing.  I hope this helps!

Best,
Sharin | @Hootsuite_Help | http://hootsuite.com/help

Skip B
Skip B

I understand link shorteners have no effect on the number of characters used on Twitter. I think the only benefits now are branding and stats?

Kristina Cisnero
Kristina Cisnero

@Skip B Which are two very important benefits that businesses should definitely keep in mind when it comes to using URL shorteners. Without stats how are you suppose to know something is working? And when you use URL shorteners you'll be able to know how many clicks you're receiving and prove the effectiveness of your social media efforts.