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Twitter only allows 140 characters per tweet, meaning that most long links are off-limits. So, what to do when you want to use a URL? Use one of these link-shortening services…they’ll greatly reduce the number of characters in your link, so you can save as many characters as possible for your witty words.
If it happens on the Internet and Google doesn’t get involved, does it really matter? The Goo.gl service has the cache of the big-G behind it so you can know that the links you share won’t instantly disappear. With over 200 URL shortener services online, some are bound to fizzle out. Goog.gl is far less likely to have that problem with the power of a thousand suns and Google’s bucks behind it. Plus, since Google’s main business is selling ads online, it offers good analytic tools to see how many times links have been clicked and from what browsers. So you can determine if your links get more mobile clicks, or if people rocking Internet Explorer 1.1 are reaching out from 1995 to call for help. This is especially helpful if you need to know more than just the number of clicks coming through: For example, if you’re trying to market people with smartphones, you can see which links are tapped instead of clicked by using Goo.gl.
Bitly wants to help people market their stuff through Twitter. For marketers, it’s not just about making that link fits within 140 characters, but also figuring out what happens with those links when they’re released into the wild. Bitly adds the ability to count clicks to see which links get the most traffic and which links are destined to die sad and alone surrounded by cats and applications to the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. It can also make link-bundles, so if you have several sites that are helpful and you want to get them all to people in one Machiavellian swoop, you can send one Bitly link that gives them all the sites you bundled.
Ow.ly is connected to HootSuite, a social media client, so it’s designed to make using HootSuite easy and smooth. HootSuite allows you to use a third-party interface to update your Twitter and other social media streams and then displays all the content in one place for you. Ow.ly has sharing features built in, and it keeps a bookmark list of all the links you shorten in case you need to go back through and find them later.
If URL shortening services aged like people do, TinyURL is the granddaddy of the lot. Originally coming online in 2002, the service claims to have shortened over 1 billion links. While it doesn’t track clicks like some other services, you can create custom URLs.
In June 2011, Twitter created its own URL shortening service. If all you want in a link-shortening service is for big links to be less big, Twitter’s T.co is for you. Just drop any old URL into your tweet, and Twitter slices and dices it into 19 characters, leaving you the other 121 characters to convince people to click on your link.