Link shorteners or URL shortening is not a new concept. The first version I could find is TinyURL.com, which began in 2001, according to the organization’s website. However, the sites have grown dramatically in the last few years as more people have joined Twitter, which limits the number of characters users can send in a post to 140.
Some of the most popular link shorteners include bit.ly (My favorite because it allows users to view the number of clicks and to make QR Codes from the bit.ly links), ow.ly (The version used from HootSuite.com) and nearly 200 more less-popular versions.
Link shorteners provide users with numerous benefits besides making it easier to tweet a link with commentary. They allow users to share an easier-to-remember link, such as http://bit.ly/RuthingsTexting rather than https://justruthings.com/2011/03/23/2010-sees-huge-boost-in-text-messages-sent-and-received/.
However, drawbacks exist for using these sites, especially when doing so outside Twitter where they’re less expected. Namely, many feel uncomfortable clicking on a short link because you can’t see where it’s taking you until it’s too late.
Businesses can avoid turning customers away from links by always adding credible-sounding descriptions to the sharing of a link. Also, avoid sending any link or message too many times in a row. This is can not only hurt the likelihood that someone will click on a link, but it can also hurt your brand’s image. You don’t want to be equated with spam in the minds of your customers!
Individuals can remain safe by not following or friending people they don’t know or don’t feel are credible. Just because someone follows you or asks to be your friend does not mean you need to return the favor if you feel the party isn’t legitimate or trustworthy. Also, be selective when clicking on links. If an email lands in your spam folder or looks sketchy, there’s a chance it is. Don’t click on it and block or report the sender if possible.
All in all, as with any part of the internet, use your common sense. Businesses should consider how people want to be treated while people should remember to trust only those they know.
What do you think? Do you use short links at all? Do you click on them if you receive them?
Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/URL_shortening
Certification Magazine: http://www.certmag.com/read.php?in=3863