B2B Companies Need a Trackable Short URL Service

Today I received a direct mail piece from a B2B company which included a short URL link to a survey. This was one of the first short URLs that I have seen in print, rather than on the web. Short URL services provide re-directs to long, complex web addresses with a substitute, shorter version. The redirect is permanent, so long as the service remains in business, or at least the re-direct database remains active. These services really took off with the explosive growth of Twitter and its 140 character limit.

The good thing about the short URL in the printed piece was that second part, after the service name, was customized with a company abbreviation. This is a good bit of branding, and makes it easier for customers to type in the URL, since this appears on a printed piece. The bad part of the short URL was that they used tinyURL. This was one of the original short URL services and all it does is create a re-direct. As new services were developed, they added more features, most notably, click tracking. This important metric shows the number of times a link was clicked. Services like bit.ly also display all tweets that included any short URL linking to the post or page and the time of the clicks. The number of tweets, or retweets, is another metric worth tracking if you are trying to get readers to share your content. It helps you understand what content gets shared the most.

Since metrics tools measure in different ways and have their own idiosyncrasies, it is good to have multiple sources for the same information. When you compare clicks from your short URL program to page views in Google Analytics, for example, the number of clicks is always higher. There are a variety of reasons for this on both sides of the equation. Sometimes clicks from Twitter clients are counted because the program opens the short URL and shows the full URL, even though the user did not click on it. And Google Analytics only counts views from browsers with javascript running. There are other reasons Google Analytics numbers are usually lower than other sources.

Here are more short URL tools, including ones that do more things, but include URL shortening as a feature.

So in the end, if you are using a short URL service, whether in print or on the web, make sure you use one that tracks clicks or other relevant data, because otherwise you are wasting an opportunity to better measure your results.

How To Create A Free Custom B2B URL Shortener

URL Shorteners have become an integral part of sharing ideas on the social web. Previously I had talked about the idea of creating a custom URL shorten that represents a corporation. While that post covered a lot about the use cases for URL shorteners, it had one glaring item that was missing: how to easily crate a custom URL shortener for free.

Recently Bit.ly announced a solution to this problem call Bitly.pro. This free service by Bit.ly allows a business to create a URL shortener for a custom domain, using Bit.ly’s technology at no cost. While the free version of the service is pretty basic, Bit.ly does offer a richer featured, enterprise version, though asks companies to inquire for costs of this premium service.

Social Media B2B is proud to announce that we are using Bitly.pro for our own custom URL shortener: smb2b.in. The links that we share about Social Media B2B will use this new custom URL shortener.

How To Create A Custom URL Shortener Using Bitly.Pro

Step 1: Sign up for a free Bitly.pro account
Step 2: Select and Purchase a domain name for your URL shortener
Step 3: Have your IT staff change the DNS record for the domain you purchased by following Bit.ly’s directions.
Step 4: Start shortening URLs

Custom URL shortening services offer great branding and data tracking opportunities. Do you plan on creating one for your business?

NOTE: Since this new custom short URL service is not yet compatible with any of the share buttons, here is a tweet using our shortened URL you can copy and paste into your favorite twitter client: RT @smb2b: How To Create A Free Custom B2B URL Shortener http://smb2b.in/9lqhAI

Creating Corporate URL Shorteners To Drive B2B Content

Content is king, but it can only be driven through great distribution. One of the things that interests me the most is simplifying content publishing for business-to-business companies to help them better tell their story. A big factor in telling a powerful story, is making sure that it represents the whole company. It is important have to have parts of the story from many different employees. How do you make this happen?

bitly.tv-1

This week the URL shortening service Bit.ly launched a new service called Bitly.TV. This service aggregates the most popular videos being shared using the URL shortening service. It provides a quick look at what is popular right now. So what if a B2B company took this idea and built on it?

Capturing What Employees Share
URL shortening services continue to launch, and while some people like them and others don’t, they serve an important function. What if a B2B company created a custom URL shortener for its employees to use? For example, a large company like GE could create GE.me as a URL shortener. This would brand any links shared as coming from someone at GE.

A corporate URL shortener could address many issues:

1. Capture information that employees are already sharing on the web in one place.
2. Reinforce corporate branding on the social web.
3. Denote that the link is not spam

For me the biggest opportunity for doing something like this is capturing the brain power and interest of an entire company. If the short URL service were adopted company wide, then one dashboard could exist to view the most relevant links and information to employees and customers at any point in time.

Knowledge Is Power
Once you have a digital pulse of an organization, thanks to the data being generated by a corporate URL shortening services, a world of options opens up for you.

You can use the information captured in your URL service to:

1. Guide your blog content.
2. Direct Facebook, Twitter and other social network content and conversations.
3. Focus e-mail and direct response calls to actions and offers
4. Educate sales and marketing on trends and issues
5. Guide product developments and enhancements

While all of these are key benefits, the best opportunity likely is the overall credibility that will come from a more accurate, “not just marketing” tone of your business on the Web.

Dealing With Data
Let’s be clear, I don’t think that you should just throw all the popular links onto the web and display them in the way Bit.ly did. I think that it is up to internal staff to understand the data provided and use it to impact business objectives and tactics, like the ones mentioned above.

This brings up an important issue to understand. The more resources you devote to the web, the more time you need to allocate for data and analytics reporting and interpretation. Understanding data from the social web will be a key success factor for B2B companies in the future.

With the popularity of URL shortening services it should be possible to license technology from an existing service or find a program that has experience building one as a way to get your own corporate short URL started. Your employees are already sharing relevant business information with other services. Shouldn’t you capitalize on the branding and data possibilities of actions they are already taking?

Is this something you see becoming a trend? Would your business consider doing this?