highlighting the limitations of traditional metrics

Link Shorteners from FB and Google

Metrics on December 15th, 2009 No Comments

Responding to the growing popularity of link shorteners (services which compress long links into short, coded links), Facebook, Google and Bit.ly. all announced new products yesterday. Google and Facebook are launching their own link shorteners, while Bit.ly is enhancing their market leading service. Beyond the excitement of these new developments, none of the new services forge new ground, nor do they help uses gain actionable insight into the way their content is being used.

Cross-site engagement is a particular interest of ours here at PreferenceSet. More traffic is moving off of traditional websites and onto social networks where it cannot be tracked or measured using traditional tools. Yet understanding the relationship between different entities and content is increasingly necessary to gather meaningful insight into the way an organization or company makes use of its own online presence. Despite this trend, the current crop of tools leave users mostly in the dark.

Largely due to their use on Twitter, link shorteners quickly became the tool of choice for measuring a link’s impact and reach when shared on social networks. By revealing to users how many times a link has been clicked, link shorteners with analytic features at least give users a sense of how effective their Tweets are. Bit.ly has become the defacto standard, providing additional detail on readers’ location and device.

Yesterday, Google and Facebook announced their own link shorteners, goo.gl and fb.me, respectively. While neither Facebook nor Google have yet to announced any analytics feature, there is already some speculation that Facebook will offer this feature. Google already has one of the best analytics tools available, and it would be a logical next step for them to integrate the products.

Bit.ly also announced an addition to their service, Bit.ly Pro. The new service provides deeper analytics and some custom branding for select customers.

But even with these additional features, all of these services only return raw data. Data such as hit counts or referrer information is without actionable insight, and as a result, largely useless.

Avinash Kaushik writes on his blog about the limitations of these analytics tools.

Most twitter analytics tools just do data puking. They find numbers that can be computed and then proceed to puke at you as many as they can find, with wonton disregard of value being provided or outcomes being measured…. You must pause and think: So what is this saying? What action can I take?

There are some new services being developed attempting to answer this question. Avinash cites several of them, such as Klout. These services focus on analyzing users on Twitter, however, not the links themselves. We at PreferenceSet are working on our own solution to this problem, specific to online fundraising over social networks.

Larger incumbents, such as Facebook and Google may be slower to experiment with new metric types, as a result of their large user base and existing conventions. The absence of any details on even basic analytics from either Google or Facebook, on top of their very late entry into the market, reinforces this. In general the industry will continue to evolve with more and more advanced analytics analysis. This may give newer market entrants an opportunity to outflank the larger players in a very important part of the emerging cross-site social structure implied by social networking tools.

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is a freelance Ruby developer working in the Washington, DC metro area.
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