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:
- Wired - Twitter URL Service Bit.ly Says No to Ads, Yes to Data-Mining News.
- Fast Company - Bit.ly to Turn Its Diced-Up URLs Into a Real-Time News Feed.
"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."
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?