Over the course of the past few months, I’ve been getting asked about all the “weird” stuff I post to Facebook. I know what you’re thinking, but no, I haven’t been using the web’s most popular social networking site to announce my quest to determine the speed of darkness. Instead, I’ve been using URL shortening services like ow.ly and bit.ly to post content to Twitter and automatically update my other networks. URL shorteners assign a shorter address to a website and redirect to another destination page, adding analytics along the way.
Like many other results-minded social media professionals, I use the shortening services to track clicks and mask Google analytics tags to gauge user engagement. If you want to measure results of your marketing campaigns then these services are a necessity, but one may wonder if they are beneficial when the everyday social network user says “what the heck is that?!” every time you use them.
As if to answer this question and solve the problem once and for all, Facebook and Google announced last week the limited release of fb.me and goo.gl, respectively. Not to be outdone, YouTube announced yesterday the development of YouTu.be, a URL service specific to videos uploaded to the world’s most popular video sharing site. Each of the three services now pose a significant threat to bit.ly, arguably the most popular external shortening service, because of their strong user community and household brand recognition. The promotion of a service by a popular icon creates an awareness that cannot be matched by even the largest marketing campaign. Remember Ashton Kutcher challenging CNN on getting to 1 million followers on Twitter? You can ask around, but I doubt you will find anyone that disagrees with the notion that Ashton Kutcher played a role in Twitter’s 2009 popularity boom.
Mainstream use of URL shorteners will help online marketers by providing credibility to their online identities and positively impact the results of their campaigns. If these services see mainstream use and users know what they are, then they will begin trusting links and make our content, products and services easier to market. Widespread use of social networks focusing on short form communication is bringing forth innovative new ways to increase leads, sales and customer engagement in an era where fewer people are clicking on display ads. Embracing these trends will not only help you stay afloat in a down economy, but also help you stay on top of the competition.
When all is said and done, will the popularity of Facebook, Google and YouTube make URL shorteners mainstream in 2010? Only time will tell, but my guess is absolute.ly!