Twitter will automatically shorten any link you put into your tweet for you, but how do you know if anyone actually clicked on your link? Facebook will translate a link in your status update to make it clickable, but how can you track who actually clicks? Neither Twitter nor Facebook can tell you that. You can get a “read” receipt from an email you send, but you can’t determine if someone actually clicked on the link you provide inside the message.
If you want to measure what impact your messages have on your readers, it helps to have a meter. You can determine which status updates make the biggest splash and become more effective in reaching readers. So how can you gather this kind of data?
A service called Bit.ly can help. This tool helps individuals track the metrics of shared links. Sign up for a free account. It doesn’t just shorten your links and tweet them directly from the bitly dashboard, but more importantly keeps count of each and every link and the number of times it is clicked by others.
When you are on a unique webpage that you’d like to share, use the Bit.ly shorten & share bookmarklet to create a trackable URL. Then copy this URL and post it on your social network of choice. Bit.ly makes it much easier to share its links on Twitter than anywhere else, but you can always copy a Bit.ly link to use on other social networks, websites or in email.
Bit.ly can reveal whether or not a link goes viral. It tells you when your links reach an audience and gives you demographic information on that audience. Metrics will not only reveal single clicks but also the social network used by the person clicking on the link – whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, or elsewhere on the World Wide Web – and the originating country. To see how far your link travels, visit your bit.ly account dashboard. Or, if you have the link on hand, enter it into your browser and add a “+” to the end of the link for metrics to appear.
Bit.ly can help you navigate the “live feed” and reach the largest possible audience. Even better, it can be used for research and experimentation. Sharing an update at different times of the day, even different days of the week, affects results. Consider this: sharing updates when all your friends are online and hanging out in a virtual “public square” is, logically, more effective than sharing updates when no one is online. Like a radio broadcast, online sharing yields the best results when you have a large audience gathered to listen. After all, a writer’s goal for social networking should be to become a public figure.
The pitch you give when sharing a link matters too. “Check this out!” is not a convincing endorsement, nor is “BUY MY BOOK”. The headline for your link needs to pique interest or it won’t be clicked. You can play around and share your links sporadically over time. Once you create a bit.ly link, you can easily share it again directly from the bitly dashboard. You only have to create the shortened link once and it can be used again in another context, at another time, or to a different audience. Just search through the links you’ve been tracking, click “copy” or “share” from the Options menu next to an individual link and post it with a new headline copy. If you have a blog, this is highly effective if you have an archive of popular posts that new friends and followers may not have seen. Many well-known writer and marketer bloggers re-tweet popular posts, so don’t be afraid to do it too; just be wary of over-selling your content and strive for balance (25% self-promotion, 75% conversation).
Bit.ly is valuable because you can track and measure your marketing efforts. For writers, nothing could be better. Once your finished manuscript goes to market, it’s out of your hands: publishers and PR professionals are making decisions for your book. Yet, regardless which form it takes, your platform is under your complete and total control. Sure, some of you may have help. But, like a manuscript picked up by a publisher, you only have control of the quality of the content. Nothing more. You cannot control the reach of your social networking (a.k.a. social media marketing).
If you don’t use it already, sign up for bit.ly now. Measure your impact. Use social media smarter: spend less time figuring out what is and is not working on your social networks so you can focus on honing your craft and writing great books.
A tree falls in the forest, but did anyone hear it crash down? Bit.ly can tell you, but you have to use it.