I realize I haven’t been living up to my "nerd" end of the bargain. Plenty of writing, film and nostalgic posts, but no real geekery of any sort. In order to remedy this, I wanted to dig into a useful social media feature you might be unaware of.
The rise of Twitter & shortened URL’s
Twitter is one of the newest social media sensations to hit the web. Think of it as a non-stop, real time, instant message conversation the entire Internet is taking part in. As daunting as that sounds, the 140 character limit and their "follow" system make it manageable. With its rise in popularity, people are now using it to convey all kinds of information, from news alerts to emergency response updates.
Larger amounts of data are being crammed into the 140 character framework, making every character crucial. Because web site addresses are frequently shared on Twitter (and often exceedingly long), URL shortening services have exploded in usage. One such service that mirrored Twitter’s rise was Bit.ly and what made it so popular was Twitter choosing it to automatically shorten URL’s on its homepage. With most tweets leveraging Bit.ly by default, I wanted to show you one of the cooler features of the service.
Whenever a content creator publishes something on the Internet (blogs, pictures, etc), they’re interested in who’s seeing it. Websites can track statistics in a variety of ways (i.e. Google Analytics) and blogs sometimes have built in stats, but when it comes to a link-by-link basis, there’s really not much. For instance, Google Analytics gives you the referrer (i.e. Twitter.com) without getting the specific link that brought them in. It’s useful information, but if you’re trying to target which delivery method is working best (Facebook, Twitter, IM) then it fails miserably.
Bit.ly helps plug this gap by collecting detailed data on the usage of their links and shares the info free of charge. As an example, I will use the metrics from a post on Lateral Action (one of my favorite creativity blogs). I’m using them for two reasons: One, they get a hell of a lot more traffic than I do and two, I’m currently using Twitter Friendly Links not Bit.ly.
The latest article from Lateral Action is "How to Fake it As an Artist". From one of Mark McGuinness’ tweets I saw the link: http://bit.ly/11WFZx. To tap into the info Bit.ly is collecting in the background, simply add a + sign to the end of the link like so: http://bit.ly/11WFZx+ which will redirect you to http://bit.ly/info/11WFZx. This leads us to the metrics page, which is divided into 3 major sections.
At the very top of the page it provides a quick glance at the overall success of the link.
We can see how many clicks this particular link has had and Bit.ly also aggregates other Bit.ly links going to the same destination. You can also see the link destination, number of Twitter conversations referencing it and where the clicks came from. You can also click the COPY button to put the link into your clipboard or the SHARE button which opens a sidebar with several options (Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, etc).
This middle section dives deeper into the statistics and is divided into three parts: Clicks, Referrers & Locations.
In the CLICK tab we see the number of clicks on a per day basis. If you were to hover over the bars in this graph it would display the exact number. This is great to see if interest is maintained after the initial release of the link into the wild and can help you determine if subsequent attempts are needed to maintain your traffic goals for the content.
The REFERRERS tab shows us where the clicks came from in an application or website sense. Clicking on the + symbol next to the entries provides more detailed information. The website entries show you if the clicks came from sub-domains and Registered Applications shows if it came from apps like Tweetdeck and Seesmic. With Email Clients, IM, AIR Apps, and Direct, it explains what the criteria is, but doesn’t further categorize it.
The LOCATIONS tab divides the clicks geographically. I could see this being helpful if you’re trying to target a particular culture or country, but otherwise its just cool to know.
Conversations & Metadata
This bottom portion shows the Twitter conversations referencing the link and what metadata is being pulled from the page.
This can he
lp you discover who has created tweets of their own pointing folks to your content or if people are talking about it in general. Metadata is metadata, really don’t have much to say about it.
These statistics are extremely useful when you’re first starting out or when trying to gauge the interest in specific content, but like most things, should be used in moderation. It’s easy to lose yourself in constant stat checking when your energies are better focused on content creation. Also please remember, the Internet is a weird place and you can never be quite certain what will cause a buzz and what won’t. John Scalzi, best selling author and prolific blogger, admits that his highest hit generating post wasn’t any of his essays or contests, but when he taped bacon to his cat and took a picture.