Should we be using a link shortener when sharing our content to social media?

Estimated read time: 3 minutes



First of all, what is a link shortener to begin with?

These are the URLs that take your longer link like authenticstorytelling.net/Something-something-something and turn them into something shorter like:

  • Bit.ly/something
  • Ow.ly/something
  • The above are just examples and if you copy and paste them and they go to some inappropriate sites you’ve been warned.

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These techniques used to make a lot of sense when Twitter for example counted your URL-which often was quite long-against the 140 character limit. Of course, today the 140 character limit is now at a 280-character limit and Twitter cuts the display of the full URL off anyways.

Example:

Other times Twitter will just show a preview with the site’s URL:



It’s a similar story on Facebook:

LinkedIn renders posts similarly. I find this display much more transparent than shortened links. “Here’s where you are going.”

Adding shortened links also takes more time for content distributors. Some go to those services’ websites and manually create the shortened URLs. Others click a “link shortener” button in programs like Hootsuite. I also currently use Hootsuite and auto schedule all of my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn posts.

Sometimes people ask me what thought I put into posting something at a specific time.

Answer: “That was a Hootsuite auto posting schedule. I literally put no thought into it. It was automagic.”

LOL.

Read next: Do paywalls work?

Why not to use link shorteners

OK, here’s my official opinion and this crossed my mind after I saw a brand that was new to me using a shortened link that I didn’t click. I didn’t know where it would take me, there was no preview and as far as I know it could’ve been spam. That seemed like a lot of trust on a first date. ?‍♂️?

Shortened links seem to hide to an extent-even when it’s unintentional-where people are going next. With preview functions available on all social networks nowadays there’s really no reason to do that. The character limit also no longer seems to be an issue.

From a content distribution perspective, it also cuts a step to not have to make it a short link.

Some people use the shortened link services to measure metrics and to see what’s working and what’s not working. But there are a host of other ways to do that through other tagging or even just simply looking at referral traffic in Google Analytics. Or by using the social networks’ metrics. Be aware that all platforms likely will have different numbers.

Personally, I also find some shortened links hard to spot at times when they are embedded between or right before hashtags.

Some are easier to notice with emojis ‼️? around them.

There’s a use case where I would use them though: For long links in print! Insert a shortened link in a printed channel like a magazine and make that step easier for readers. There’re fewer ways to measure print to digital conversion and the shortened link can help there.

Here’s a good example: