Founder & CEO
June 19, 2022
One would be forgiven to assume that link shortening services are all about creating a url with less characters. Well, historically, that may have been one of the main purposes of the service, but things have changed since then.
It all began when Twitter started knee-capping a bunch of third-party tools built around its platform. When Twitter adopted a standard of shortening links themselves, others like LinkedIn followed suit. It is now safe to assume that your link will not be rendered the same way by any social network, making saving character counts an exercise in dead horse beating.
Of course, that only makes sense in posts and not in advertisements. Ah! If you're trying to track how a link is visited by using UTM parameters, you will quickly learn that they create a very ugly looking URL. Quiet simply, it just looks like an unprofessional mess. Ideally, you don't want to let your customers know what you're calling a campaign or how you've configured it. It's internal stuff that should remain so.
You could read this article by the UK Government Communication Service's Louise Harris, where she claims that you shouldn't use the service because there are other service providers offering the service. It's almost as if Harris worked for Google or Meta. To demonstrate, allow me to quote this hilarity:
Some link shorteners claim to provide you with analytics. And perhaps they do, but no more than you get natively, for free, on social media platforms and via tools like Google Analytics. Social media platforms tell you how many clicks you received and provide a click-through rate (CTR) – you don't need a third party tool like a link shortener to find that out.
Harris is addressing government organizations here, by actually saying that you should put all your eggs in the Google basket.. or Instagram one. Whichever one you like, just not some other service because that's the one worthy. Or something. But point is, it is complete and absolute nonsense.
Regardless of the entity you're representing online, be it a government agency or your own personal brand, decoupling yourself from providers who can shut you out of the world is a key component in assessing the risk of any service. You may be thinking, but the government can't be de-platformed, right? Well, maybe. But that is not true for all governments. Because this is a variable that changes based on who the service provider is and their relationship with you, perhaps it is better to adopt a more holistic approach.
I recall working on a project with government entity in Abu Dhabi, over a decade ago. One of their requirements was to not allow Google services to track anything from within their sites. They wanted their own analytics and did not want to share their data with anyone else, including Google. This is a more typical governmental approach to data.
Let us break down the pros and cons for a links shortening tool, by type of user.
Link shortening for creators
Creators come in all shapes and sizes, but they often have a much lower bar for branding, even if some exceed it and then some. The point is, because of that, often it makes little sense to take on the overhead of your domain name.
The overhead the comes with your own domain, website and other associated services is simply uneconomical, which is why link shortening services make sense. They make sense because you want to have the same level of control, sans administrative overhead.
A creator use case for URL shorteners
Jenny is an active creator on instagram. She posts regularly and has an engaged following. Then, one day, Instagram decided that her account was involved in suspicious activities and was suspended. Luckily, Jenny uses a url shortening service and a link-in-bio service where she uses one link to point to her instagram account. All she had to do was update the link's target url to her newly created account.
The above is an over-simplified poorly constructed use case, but the idea stands. You get to have control over where the link takes you and change that at will.
This is a very powerful tool.
Link shortening for agencies
When you're an agency, you're dealing with multiple clients with a wide array of needs and wants. There will be a client who only needs social profiles links and another who is constantly running promotions and ads. There will be a need to segment them and categorize them accordingly.
But you already know this. The only question you have to ask yourself is, does this service do all the things that I want for my customers.
Link shortening for brands
Brands have a slightly different want, which centers around the type of domains used in a url shortened address. While having a generic shortened url works for creators and smaller clients at an agency, it will not work for bigger brands.
It's really an obvious problem, because no one is going to feel comfortable clicking on an unknown link that is supposedly associated with a recognizable brand. The good news is, most url shortening services offer the option to brand your shortened url's.
URL shorteners may have burst into the scene as a way to ration characters in social posts, but this is just as relevant as claiming that revolving doors were invented to keep horses out. It may have kept horses out, but that's not why Theophilius van Kannel invented them.
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