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Twitter is getting into analytics. Finally. This week, the microblogging service announced that it will be updating its URL shortener t.co to help alleviate malware problems and track link sharing on its service.
By the end of the year, t.co links will be more secure, and provide more information to the people that share them. This is good news for marketers.
As the company wrote this week, Twitter's in-house URL shortener t.co will be expanded so links are easier to read:
"Wrapped links are displayed in a way that is easier to read, with the actual domain and part of the URL showing, so that you know what you are clicking on. When you click on a wrapped link, your request will pass through the Twitter service to check if the destination site is known to contain malware, and we then will forward you on to the destination URL. All of that should happen in an instant."
Depending on implemenation, the new links could be problematic for retweeting. But screening for malware is a good idea. More important for businesses, Twitter will finally start sharing link data:
"When you click on these links from Twitter.com or a Twitter application, Twitter will log that click. We hope to use this data to provide better and more relevant content to you over time."
A major weakness for social media marketing is the current inability to track shared messages. Twitter's search engine Summize only goes back a few days. Brands trying to follow their mentions (and retweets and conversions) don't have an easy time of it at present.
Twitter's new service will be a big help. As CNET writes:"Knowing what links are popular can help a sufficiently sophisticated Web site refine its recommendations, and likely will let Twitter improve its "promoted tweets" program and its resonance algorithm, which uses metrics like number-of-clicks to decide which messages are relevant and useful."
If Twitter can share some of the info it uses to make Promoted Tweets relevant, businesses will benefit.
For brands, it's important to know what's happening with Twitter messages. When I spoke with Ben & Jerry's Kate Lee this summer, she noted Twitter makes marketing difficult, despite the popularity of the channel:
"Twitter is a little more difficult. It’s also hard to know who you’re reaching. It doesn't really tell you the breakdown."
If social media can become more measurable, even more digital marketing will head in that direction.
There are some privacy concerns. According to CNET:"Wednesday's news was soon met with a smattering of privacy concerns, with some Twitter users dubbing it a "disgusting data landgrab" and others wondering if there will be an "opt-out policy" for those who prefer not to have their clicks recorded. Another concern: a centralized link-redirector means a centralized point of failure in a service known for being frequently overloaded." Twitter can deal with those issues — and at the least offer an opt out for privacy conscious users — because the new updates will actually help protect users from the pitfalls of blind links. Once businesses start getting some useful information out of the links they're sharing on Twitter, they can really dial up on the messaging that's working for them, and start getting more out of their social media efforts.