Great Tech Tools: Bit.ly


Bit.ly – Link Shortener and QR Code Creator
http://bit.ly

What it is:
Bit.ly is a popular link shortening service which allows a user to shorten an otherwise long website URL into a very short link that can be shared via email, social networks, a website, mobile device or other media quickly an simply. Link shorteners are especially useful for micro-blogging sites like Twitter which only allow a limited number of characters per post. The value of link shorteners has caught on with many media sites like YouTube which automatically generate their own shortened links with the sharing features built into their applications.

How we use it:
Our technology team uses bit.ly almost daily to shorten and share long URL’s via email to clients and each other. Many of the products listed on our client content management system pages are comprised of long and sometimes complex URL’s. Bit.ly allows us to shorten that link and forward it to someone without running the risk of that link breaking apart in an email message.

The other more significant benefit is the ability to track statistics related to the shared links. Bit.ly has the most robust set of analytics for a free shortening service that we have seen. Google has its own shortening service called Goo.gl, but the stats available on Google’s product pale in comparison to Bit.ly. Stats include information related to all Bit.ly links created as well as each individual link such as:

  • Clicks per hour, day, week, two weeks, monthly and all time
  • Clicks by referring site and country
  • Links shared via Twitter tweets, Facebook shares, likes and comments

Bit.ly QR CodeAn additional feature on Bit.ly is the automatic QR code generator. Whenever a link is shortened a related QR code is automatically generated. QR codes are graphic images that can be scanned by a smartphone which then activates the content stored on the image such as a link to a website. This QR code feature is also available on Goo.gl, but the Bit.ly image is larger and an additional higher resolution image is also created and can be saved for use in newsletters, brochures, magazines or other offline media.

One of the dealerships we work with decided to experiment with QR codes, using a link shortening service, in order to assess their popularity and value prior to investing in the technology for its entire inventory of vehicles. A QR code generated by the link shortener was affixed to the window of a new vehicle parked in the middle of an outdoor mall. Initial results showed that 36 people scanned the image during the first week. The code linked back to the dealership website with details on the particular vehicle model. QR codes were also placed on all new sedan vehicle models. Results showed that people were coming onto the lot after hours and viewing vehicle details with smart phones. The possibility to connect with customers even after hours was an eye opener.

An additional key feature of Bit.ly is the ability to customize the shortened link to a more memorable name. For example, the automatically shortened QR code for one of our Criminal Thinking Therapy client newsletters is http://bit.ly/nxutQi. We customized the link so that is became http://bit.ly/CT_JulyNews instead. This great feature allows the recipient of the shortened link to know what the link is referencing. It also allows us to quickly decipher the destination of the link when reviewing them in the Bit.ly control panel.

A favorite feature of the software is the ability to create and shorten links with a single right click and paste. Once a free account is created, simply pasting a link into the link shortening text area automatically shortens it and adds it to our account history ready to begin tracking stats. Another click and it is copied to computer memory and ready for pasting anywhere.

Bit.ly toggle detail viewBit.ly just recently created an ability to toggle between two different views of the links in the control panel of the software. The traditional list view shows the current number of clicks on links along with the full and shortened URL’s and creation date. The detailed view provides this same info along with a preview of an image on the page being linked along with the page’s metatag description…very cool.

Specifications:
Fully cross browser compliant.

Cost:
FREE!

Full Disclosure:
We do not make any money or referral bonuses for reviewing or recommending this product.

Visit LoebigInk.com for additional screen shots including:

  • QR Code and stats info page
  • Click and paste area

About Brian Loebig

Owner of LoebigInk.com, author of TheInkBlog.net, CriminalThinking.net and part-time Technology Manager for the Alliance for Performance Excellence, Brian has over 15 years of experience working in the quality improvement, human services and technology fields as an administrator and consultant. Brian has also worked as a practitioner and administrator in the corrections, substance abuse and human services fields with a special emphasis on technology. He continues to work with numerous community-based non-profits as a web technology consultant, board member and volunteer. Feel free to .
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