I’m often fond of saying that learning a new technology is a kin to learning a new vocabulary – once you are familiar with the terms it will demystify the technology and allow you to focus on utilizing the tool. Twitter is no different in this regard – hashtags, retweets, and mentions are just a few of the new terms you need to become familiar with to use Twitter effectively. As you become more proficient using Twitter you’re going to want to share interesting articles that you find on the web. The problem then becomes Twitter’s 140 character limit as some URL’s (Uniform Resource Locator) will extend beyond 140 characters. There is a solution however, and I would like to explain to you why you should use a URL shortener with Twitter.
A URL shortener does just that, it shortens URL’s that average 10’s of characters down around 10-20 characters. Let me give you an example using this blog post:
Actual URL for this blog post: http://www.schneiderb.com/why-you-should-use-a-url-shortener-with-twitter [73 characters]
Shortened URL for this blog post: http://bit.ly/du4iAH [20 characters]
As you can see from this example, the URL shortener reduced the URL from 73 down to 20 characters – a 53 character savings. Rather significant when you consider that Twitter limits you to 140 characters total!
There are a number of different URL shorteners but I recommend two: ow.ly and bit.ly. Your choice will depend on the application that you use to interact with Twitter and how much information you want to track regarding your tweets.
- I use Hootsuite to interact with my social media channels, including Twitter. (Blog post discussing why iLove Hootsuite.) Hootsuite’s URL shortener of choice is ow.ly which means that I typically use this URL shortener for most of my tweeting. The other major reason that I use ow.ly is that Hootsuite makes statistics available concerning the tweets that I have sent and how many people have clicked the links in my tweets.
- I also use bit.ly to shorten my URL’s. The main reason that I would use bit.ly over ow.ly is that bit.ly’s statistics reporting is much more robust. Bit.ly allows you to track clicks, referrers, and locations over different time periods. It will also track Twitter and FriendFeed conversations around the page you are sharing as well as track comments on that specific page. A really cool feature is that it will also generate a QR code for your shared link – but that is another blog post. In order to use bit.ly you’ll have to navigate to the bit.ly website and paste your link in the window. Bit.ly will automatically shrink your URL which you can then past into your Twitter window for sharing. Although using bit.ly is a little more time consuming, I think the effort is worth the extra reporting.
I hope you now understand why you should use a URL shortener and which one to use. As I said before, there are numerous shorteners out there and if you prefer another one please let me know why in the comments section below.