By: Jordan Ross
Have you ever heard of Bitly? If not, I’ll give you a quick explanation of what it is. Bitly is a website with a simple premise: it is a URL shortener that takes longer, complicated web links and condenses them down into much more manageable links. So why is a tool like Bitly important for those in the PR industry to take note of? Well, much of what PR practitioners do nowadays takes place on the web. Whether it be creating blogs, running social media, or even contributing to online news centers and PR wires, there is a lot of interaction that PR pros do online. All these platforms are used to communicate with the public and provide them with information from the client or organization that we work for. To perform that task as best as we can, there are tools that allow us to have our message spread as clearly and effectively as possible, and Bitly is a tool that can do just that. Off the top of my head, I can think of six simple reasons why a tool like Bitly can be so beneficial for a PR professional:
People have a lot going on in their lives, and the last thing they want to remember is a long website URL. If you want to raise awareness for whatever it is you are doing, the simpler you can make things for the average person the better. When people come across a huge website link with a bunch of random letters and numbers that stretch as far as the eye can see, it’s not really the most appealing thing. The shorter a link is, the easier it is to comprehend and understand. By providing shorter links for people, we are saving them precious time. Not to mention, it makes it much easier for them to remember and possibly go back to in the future.
2. Mobile friendly.
Phones these days seem to be getting bigger and bigger, but no matter how large the screens get, there will always be a limited amount of screen space that users can interact with. There is only so much that can fit within the confinements of mobile device screens, and that means each pixel of real estate is important. Another thing to keep in mind is that while mobile phones are getting bigger, people’s attention spans are getting shorter. People want to get their information faster and get as much of it as they can within a given time period. If people are scrolling online and see a long link that they have to click out to, they may just scroll on to see what’s next because it’s too cumbersome to deal with. Bitly on the other hand, allows for the opportunity to take what could otherwise be a complicated link and make it concise and easier to digest. The simpler you makes things for people, the more likely you can get them to buy into what it is you are doing.
3. The ability to customize.
When you add a link to Bitly, you are given back a shortened link by default that typically contains a random string of letters and numbers. The great thing though, is that Bitly provides users with the option of fully customizing that last string of the link. Of course, some names may already be taken, but there are so many combinations that can be used. The ability to customize your Bitly link can allow you to make your shortened link align with whatever cause you are doing. Say for instance with this blog post, I could create the link “Bitly/PRSSABlog14March” and just by looking at the link alone you would get a sense of what the link is directing you to. You can get as creative as you want with customizing these link names, and it just opens the door to a wide array of possibilities.
They say the best things in life are free, and I would have to agree with that statement. You might agree with me when you find out Bitly can be used without spending a single dime. Even without signing up for an account, you can take any link, no matter how long it is, and customize it. You can also sign up for a free account, where you can keep track of all the shortened Bitly links that you create. The more tools at a PR practitioner’s disposable, the more resources they have to do their job to the best of their ability. If there’s a free tool out there that can help you do your job better, why wouldn’t you at least give it a shot? You have nothing to lose, and only so much to gain.
There is an enterprise edition that can also be purchased. I’m sure Bitly makes the cost of that version worth it. However, from firsthand experience alone, I can vouch that the basic version you sign up for includes more than enough for the average PR practitioner to sink their teeth into.
5. Easy to use.
If you know how to copy and paste on a computer (if you are using a computer I hope you would know how to), then you know how to use Bitly. All you have to do is copy the link that you want to shorten, and paste it into the box that says “Create a Bit link.” After pasting the link, click create and that’s it. If you want to customize the string of the URL, you are given the option to customize right after the long link is entered. The longest part of the entire process is coming up with a custom URL, unless you want to just use the automatic link that is created for you. The choice is yours! You can always go back and change it, but you’ll want to keep that in mind before you send out the link for the general public to use. You can also create an account by using your email, or you can create one using either your Facebook or Twitter. It would make sense why people wouldn’t want to use a certain tool if it were complicated to use, but Bitly is far from being one of those tools.
Arguably one of the best reasons why anyone in PR should make Bitly an item in their tool set, is the fact that it provides you the ability to keep track of the links you have created. Not only can you check to see how many people are clicking on your links, but you can see how many people each day have clicked on the link, the relative location of those people, and even whether the click came from the web or any social media site the link was posted on. An important aspect of PR is being able to measure and evaluate your efforts. By doing so, you can see what efforts you need to improve. Without those results, you may not know what future steps you should take. In PR, there are many tactics that we use to achieve the objectives we set at hand. A very popular and easy tactic you can use is a website link to notify your potential audience. Analytics provide you with tangible evidence of the things you are setting out to accomplish, and Bitly allows you to make that process as simple as possible.
Jordan Ross is a senior at Eastern Michigan University majoring in public relations and minoring in communications. Jordan is in his first semester serving as the vice president of professional development for EMU’s Eleanor Wright Chapter of PRSSA. Jordan is also a member of EMU’s Honors College and serves as the president of the EMU Student Center Student Employee Advisory Committee. You can find Jordan on Twitter @_JJRoss