Friday, June 12, 2009

Why all these short URLs?

...I've been using a service that takes a long URL and turns it into a size that's compatible with Twitter. (For instance the unruly http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdFSXRgiJlk becomes
http://cli.gs/zuLYT3 which is much easier to include in a short tweet.)

There are a number of such services, but I've chosen Cligs.

I like using Cligs for two reasons. One is that I can rename the shortcut myself if the name I like has not been chosen. So I've created:
It's cool to me that I can type these in by hand easily in many cases. and if I'm posting the link systematically over time, it's nice to have something I can easily recall.


Figure 1: Cligs traffic metrics


But there's a bigger reason to use a URL shortener for posting links. If you choose one that supports it (and most of them do), you can track the response to the link after you post it. This is the major reason I use Cligs. I like the metrics they collect and I like the presentation.

Cligs shows me the total number of responses I've had to the link, it draws me a graph of activity over time, and it shows me a world map with responses depicted by their contry of origin.

So the image I see of a link posted to a friend's online film looks like the page you see in Figure 1. (click on the image for a closer look).





Figure 2: A clig with multiple
recent mentions.


A page that has been mentioned several times in the preceding weeks, might look a bit more like the second image you see in Figure 2. You can see the upward blips that occur around the time the link was mentioned on Twitter or Facebook.

What's especially useful about the map is that you can see how many of the mentions came from each of the red countries. In the live map, putting the mouse over a country will produce a flyout such as the one you can see in Figure 2.

Below this graphical depiction of activity, there is a list of specific sites from which the clig was accessed. For instance, if there is a specific page on LinkedIn that exposes the clig, you'll see some number of clicks that originated there.

The information is advisory only and there are often assumptions about the origins of the traffic, but the overall story it tells is a useful one.

I must point out that there are something like a dozen similar services and you can easily find a comparison of their features. I used bit.ly for a while, but switched back to Cligs in spite of the things I find tedious about their site.

If you're interested in knowing how widely your voice carries in the social media space, it's a good idea to choose a URL shortner and use it for a while to track responses. You'll certainly find something interesting as you do.