A New Revolution In Marketing From A Very Unassuming Place

Posted by

Every day on Twitter something major is happening that few see, talk about and acknowledge. It’s something that is going to change the face of news as we know it and the power of marketing.

The biggest trick to sharing information in a world of 140 characters is being able to place a long web address (URL) into your tweet. Some crafty programmers cobbled together a very simple application that takes long URLs and shortens them. These URL shortening services (I use one called tr.im, but in Twitter, bit.ly is the default service) are starting to not only garner a bunch of media attention, but they’re also receiving significant venture capital dollars, and rumours have already begun to fly about major online players looking to acquire these applications for their own use (you can read more about the power of tr.im and how I use it to track and analyze my own Twitter feed here: Tracking The Power Of Twitter).

How will these services make money and how will they change the game?

Some of the initial thoughts were that these services might be able to generate revenue by running some kind of ad in between clicking on the shortened website address and arriving at your destination (or even an interstitial). It was quickly realized that consumers did not appreciate having their hyperlinking interrupted. It also turns out that advertising was never really the way this platform was going to be monetized. In the past couple of days, there have been two news items that have shed a significant amount of light on just how critical it is that all of us start paying attention to these URL shortening services:

From Wired:

"Instead, he’s [Bit.ly general manager Andrew Cohen] going to mine those links to create a real-time news service that would work somewhat like Twitter trends, except that it would track the hottest links rather than the most-used words. The result would be a Digg-like news service comprised of links determined to be important by bit.ly’s analysis engine. ‘We’re seeing more than a billion clicks in the course of a month,’ said Cohen. ‘Looking at that volume of data, we can see the most interesting and the most important content that is being shared across the whole of the real-time web."

In short, these guys know what is going to be breaking news before CNN and Digg does.

It’s not just breaking news, but the data within these links being shared can also guesstimate which movies are going to be tops at the box office or the way an election might sway. Public sentiment is a powerful tool, and applications like bit.ly can help push us ever-closer to a real-time web environment. We used to joke that the Internet gives us tomorrow’s newspaper headlines today. It sounds like these url shortening services can give us today’s Internet headlines right now.

From a Marketing perspective imagine the data and mining capabilities…

"’What we see are people, and marketers, coming to bit.ly and using it almost as an ad server — running campaigns on Twitter, but becoming interested in the ROI (return on investment) on those campaigns,’ he [Cohen from bit.ly] explained. ‘If I send out a tweet about dogs versus a tweet about cats, what is my average click rate normalized by the number of followers I have today? Did dogs perform better than cats? Did dogs perform 20 percent better than cats, and if so, if I share a URL about dogs again, has it performed two standard deviations beyond what I would normally expect for sharing a dog-related URL at noon on a Thursday?’"

It seems certain that access to this type of data and information will – once again – change the Marketing game.

Will Marketer’s embrace this or will they be running scared?


  1. Hey Mitch,
    I remember CC Chapman and the rest of you Media Hacks guys discussing the power of URL shortening services a couple of episodes ago. At that moment everything clicked and I realized that VC money is going to the right place.
    In addition, the twitter outage today made people recognize how important real-time news are as many felt out of sync to what is happening in the world in the two hours the service was down.
    To answer your question- “Will Marketer’s embrace this or will they be running scared?”
    They won’t be running scared but instead avoid it as they avoided and some keep avoiding social media. Smart marketers of course will see the potential of the technology and properly use their clients ad dollars by placing relevant targeted ads on where the traffic is flowing.
    Opportunity? A real-time online marketing model is coming to an agency near your. 😀
    Alex “Real-Time” Ikonn

  2. It’s been an interesting week in the URL shortening world, especially with the odd news of Coke’s choice. We run a white labeled URL shortening platform along with our other tools, and have had several people come to us and specifically say “we don’t want you mining our data.” Will bit.ly mining data turn ALL corporations off of using their service? I’m very curious to see what happens in the weeks to come.

  3. WOW, would that ever suck. And I don’t mean for us; these companies are refusing a trend, rather than taking advantage of it.
    Imagine if someone had said no to google years ago, where would they be now? Either Google would have flopped, an the bulk of its innovative products wouldn’t be making our lives interesting now, or these companis would have suffered acrippling lack of exposure.
    Rejecting a trend because of paranoia regarding espionage shows a huge lack of foresight, and I hope these companies have marketing departments willing to change. If not, are we better off without forward thinkers?

  4. Mitch,
    It will be interesting to see how the business evolves. What’s particularly interesting is how tinyurl.com seems to have been left in the dust. At one time, it dominated the URL shortening scene, and had a huge opportunity to become a big business.

Comments are closed.