How to use HootSuite Shortened Links and Parameters

How to use HootSuite Shortened Links and Parameters

How to use HootSuite Shortened Links and Parameters

HootSuite is a tool for social media management that we've talked about and referenced many times. I am a Certified HootSuite Solution Pro, which means that I have been trained on not only how to use HootSuite, but how to help business owners understand how they can use HootSuite to manage and monitor their social media accounts. We are continuing our series on How to Make the Most of Your HootSuite Account by reviewing how to use HootSuite's shortened links and parameters, including why you might want to use the features and what the differences are.

What's a Shortened Link?

Initially, shortened links were simply a means to take a long URL and shrink it into a link that still worked, yet used fewer characters, saving valuable space to be used in Tweets. Instead of a link like http://www.thesocialmediahat.com/... you would instead use something like http://WP.ly/wrgbergb which is a savings of 20+ characters.

To get a shortened link, you would simply plug your full URL into a link shortening service or tool and the tool would provide the shortened link.

Then, once you have your link in place, since the tool has to keep that shortened link active indefinitely anyways, the providers began offering anaytics for links created. While any website can see how much traffic a specific page or blog post gets, and even where that traffic is coming from, a shortened link with analytics suddenly offers you the option of seeing traffic and interest from a specific link share. This opens up an immense number of campaign options and far more granular metrics.

Shortened URLs use a set domain followed by a unique combination of characters. Most link shortening services use one of the available international TLD (Top Level Domains) like .ly (Lybia). Bit.ly is a very common example. HootSuite uses four options: ow.ly and ht.ly, owl.li and htl.li. We'll get into the differences between those options in a moment. Li is for Liechtenstein.

Since HootSuite metrics are dependent on the use of a HootSuite shortened link, and since it it best practice to use shortened links in your social media shares anyways, I recommend always using a HootSuite or custom shortened link.

Understanding HootSuite URL Shorteners

So HootSuite has these four options. What do they mean? What's the difference?

First, Lybia, like many other countries, decided years ago to allow businesses and individuals to purchase domain names with their suffix. Every country in the world has a two character TLD suffix that is initially reserved for government use (.us or .uk for example), but each government is given the choice to sell domains using their assigned suffix. One of the most popular examples is Tuvalo who made .tv available to the world.

Libya's .ly ccTLD (country code Top Level Domain) is managed by the registry LYNIC and is primarily available to the people and businesses of Lybia, but accepts applications from international entities. Domain names are registered at a premium cost of $75/year. Therefore, there are some who have concerns about how the use of such domains results in tacit support for the government of Lybia. There have also been concerns about potential disruptions of service resulting in broken links.

Web Traffic to .LY Addresses Infographic

Therefore, HootSuite purchased and implemented the owl.li shortener which works exactly like ow.ly - just a different suffix.

The other interesting option that HootSuite offers is ht.ly and htl.li. HTL is short for HootLet which is HootSuite's extension and sharing tool. When these shorteners are used, users continue to gain the analytics benefits of ow.ly or owl.li, but also add the Social Sharing Bar at the top of resulting pages.

HootSuite Social Share Bar in action on The Social Media Hat.

Once someone clicks through your link, the HootSuite Social Sharing Bar will appear at the top of the site, encouraging them to rate and re-share the content. This is highly recommended for marketers and publishers!

Using HootSuite URL Shorteners

By default, your HootSuite dashboard and compose box will use ow.ly. To change your default link shortener, open the Compose box and click on the link field. That will reveal the link settings icon (a gear) that you can click to open Advanced Settings.

How to select a different link shortener.

Most of the settings revolve around link parameters which we will explain and dig into in a moment, but the first option is a drop down where you can simply change which shortener you want to use for that post and all future posts. You can change this at any time.

Once you create a shortened link and share it, you can plug it into HootSuite report: URL Click Stats to see activity for that specific link, regardless of where or when or how it was shared.

Setting up a Custom Link Shortener

Aside from the aforementioned choices, HootSuite offers custom/vanity URL shortening services. Using a unique domain is a great way to increase brand awareness while still utilizing powerful analytics.

Pro users can choose to purchase this option in Settings > Preferences > URL and following the instructions. Enterprise customers should contact their Account Executive or complete the form at: hootsuite.com/enterprise.

Link Parameters

What link parameters allow you to do is track analytics for specific URLs sent to your social media profiles. You can get a more fine-grained look at which social networks did or did not drive traffic to not just your site, but a specific blog post or landing page. It's the kind of setting that's great for A/B testing and campaign monitoring.

Start by opening the Compose box, insert the link you want to share, and click on the gear icon to open the advanced settings just like we did above.

HootSuite allows you have preset parameters that can be applied on the fly to any link, or assigned to all links by default. "Google Analytics" is also set up as a default preset, which you can customize or add more as needed.

Within each preset, you can set a number of parameters (all options are listed below).

Choose a meaningful Campaign Name because you will be able to see it in both HootSuite analytics and Google Analytics if you've connected your Google Analytics account to your HootSuite account.

For Campaign Source, you may typically select a specific social network, like Twitter or Facebook.

For Campaign Medium, you can specify a social media account, if you or your client has, for instance, multiple Twitter accounts, or you might specify the kind of content being shared, like Blog Post.

This chart shows when and why URL parameters are used. 

 Campaign content

 (utm_content)

  • For content-targeted ads and A/B testing.
  • Use to distinguish between ads or links that direct to the same URL.

 Campaign medium 

 (utm_medium)

  • Required.
  • Use to identify a medium such as email or cost-per-click.

 Campaign name

 (utm_campaign)

  • For keyword analysis.
  • Use to identify a specific campaign or promotion.

 Campaign source

 (utm_source)

  • Required.
  • Use to identify a search engine, newsletter name or other source.

 Campaign term

 (utm_term)

  • For paid searches.
  • Use to mark keywords.

You can add parameters for Terms as well as Content when you have different ads that result in the same landing page (A/B testing).

Advanced social media marketing campaigns require advanced metrics in order to determine success and ROI. Implementing this level of sharing ensures that when you use HootSuite analytics or Google Analytics, you'll be able to identify not just traffic via social, but also how specific campaigns performed.

These are the ways businesses can use HootSuite Shortened Links and Parameters to save valuable character space, track click activity, add social sharing options, and even add complex analytics capability and split testing. If you haven't yet signed up for a HootSuite account, you can get a free trial here (affiliate link), and you can contact me if you would like additional training and support.

Next time, we'll go over the classes and options available within HootSuite University.

Image courtesy of rubybgold, Flickr.


Mike is a Social Media Consultant and Blog Coach in St. Louis. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's. He is active on all of the major social networks and enjoys writing and teaching small business owners on how to leverage the Internet to promote and grow their business. Mike provides training and seminars to businesses and individuals on topics like "Content Marketing - Using Blogging + Social Media + SEO to equal Small Business Success" or "Establishing a Brand on Google+" or "How to use HootSuite to Manage Your Social Media Presence."

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