In-platform URL shortening services: What you need to know
As a custom link shortener, we here at Rebrandly are familiar with everything there is to know about short links. But for anyone who isn’t quite as obsessed as we are, we know it can be difficult to keep track of the rules and best practices for posting links to different platforms and, even, how to best make use of in-platform URL shortening services.
From Facebook and Twitter, to YouTube and Flickr, lots of social platforms provide their own URL shortening options. Some platforms, like Amazon, allow you to create your own links. While others, like Flickr, simply give you the option to copy the short link from their site and share it with followers.
We were relatively late to the URL shortening game. Towards the end of the noughties, there was an upsurge in the number of URL shortening services available and the number of major web services and platforms providing their own URL shorteners skyrocketed to become something of a link shortening mania. (You can check out the full history of URL shorteners here.)
There were lots of reasons for this, including the boost to brand awareness it provides. But there were also more practical reasons like the ability to analyze link data and protect users from malicious content.
The need to keep links short was essential at that time – particularly for Twitter sharing. But generic URL shorteners were becoming more and more closely associated with spam. So platforms like YouTube started allowing users to share short links with its Youtu.be URL shortener.
Only short links leading to YouTube could be created with this, so internet browsers were reassured knowing that if they clicked on a youtu.be link, it could only lead to a video – and not spam or phishing sites.
To be honest, we admire the concept and Rebrandly was later founded for similar reasons. Our custom short links help brands take control of their URLs so they can provide link trust to followers and get more click-throughs. People know that brands won’t associate their names with poor quality content so though you can link to any platform with a Rebrandly custom URL, people feel safe clicking through to the content being shared.
We highly recommend setting up your own custom URL shortener using our service, so you can track and share on-brand short links. You can find out more about that here. But for now, let’s run through 8 of the most significant in-platform URL shortening services and discuss what you can do with each of them.
What is t.co?
Millions of links are posted to Twitter every day and the platform uses its t.co URL shortening service to help protect users from malicious content. It also helps provide users with insights on engagement.
So what is t.co? .co is actually the ccTLD assigned to Colombia but it is open for anyone to purchase and has become a leading alternative to .com. Many startups and other companies make use of the TLD, and Twitter did a great job of choosing a short domain name to use for it URL shortening service.
You might not realize it, but all links contained within Tweets and direct messages are subject to Twitter’s self-built URL shortening service, regardless of their length.
They are automatically shortened to an http://t.co link. Though this doesn’t affect how your link actually appears, it allows Twitter to keep track of link engagement and provide users with metrics. People clicking on your links can also account for t.co popping up as a traffic source in Google Analytics.
The t.co shortener also limits a link’s character count to 23 – even if they appear much longer. This way, links won’t take away too much from the site’s 280-character limit.
Twitter checks its t.co links against a list of potentially dangerous sites so users can be warned if they click on a potentially harmful URL.
Luckily for brand conscious marketers, if you share a custom URL on Twitter, it will appear with your chosen name and keyword just as you wanted it to. Though it will be wrapped in a t.co link so you can also recover metrics. You can find out more about best practices for sharing branded links on Twitter here.
What is fb.me?
‘Facebook me’ has become a common phrase demonstrating just how successful and well-known the social media platform is. So it was apt that Facebook would use fb.me as the base for it URL shortening service.
Facebook quietly launched the service in 2009 without much fuss. While its not open to the public for shortening links, there a couple of ways to make use of fb.me.
You can substitute facebook.com with fb.me to share a page in a more simple and visually appealing way.
For example you can use: fb.me/TheCocaColaCo to link to https://www.facebook.com/thecocacolaco
Listen to the #PepTalks Podcast.
It's the least you can do.https://t.co/f7gUkyqTSr pic.twitter.com/CHOhN0yubv
— eddie pepitone (@eddiepepitone) June 12, 2018
Facebook gives you quite a bit of room to post links before truncating them with a … It allows up to 19 characters in the domain name and 32 characters after the slash. It should also pull through a preview of whatever it is you’re sharing.
If you’re sharing a link to other Facebook content, you can create a on.fb.me link by pasting it into Bitly. But this only works for linking content within Facebook. If you’re linking to another source, its best to use a branded link.
Tweet us your fave piece to win it! *T&Cs apply https://t.co/5oYumszHPq Ends 15th June at at 9am #FridayGiveaway pic.twitter.com/xnPLUnUN34
— La Redoute UK (@LaRedouteUK) June 8, 2018
What is Paypal.me?
Following on from the trend set by Facebook, Paypal set up its ‘PayPal Me’ service. For freelancers and online vendors who feel insecure sharing their email address to get paid, PayPal now lets users create their own short URL which they can share to organize payment instead.
The PayPal.me service was launched last December and allows users to create a payment link in the form of paypal.me/YourName. This lets you showcase your name or your business name in the link.
Though PayPal.me doesn’t exactly fit with other URL shortening services, we thought it was worth an honorable mention!
The Amazon URL shortener
If you’re selling products on Amazon, you can access an Amzn.to or A.co for each one. You can access a product’s unique short link by clicking share from the product page.
Or you can add the product ASIN – which is the unique Amazon product number – after the slash of .Amzn.to
I have a new book coming out “Live Long and …” https://t.co/NhJjgDmv7H Who has preordered it? pic.twitter.com/nA7i9FFYWw
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) June 12, 2018
You can also opt to create branded short links that feature your company name when promoting your products on marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy or Ebay. We’ve got some other tips that can help you boost your marketplace sales here.
The LinkedIn URL shortener
As in-platform URL shortening services come, Lnkd.in is probably the most intense. Though the character limit for LinkedIn posts is quite large at 1,300 characters, the social site automatically shortens links that are over 26 characters.
When the LinkedIn URL shortener comes into play, you URLs will be turned into something like this: https://lnkd.in/eYKnXFe
Not too pretty, eh? It’s important to keep this in mind if you’re using branded links – keep them brief or your brand name will disappear.
Though, we do like that LinkedIn lets us customize the excerpt when linking to an article.
YouTube URL shortener
As we mentioned earlier, YouTube also launched its own URL shortener in 2009 – YouTu.be – with the purpose of making it clear when a link led to the platform.
To make a short link with youtu.be, you just need to put the Youtube video ID from original video URL after youtu.be/
For example, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mURz_kJp9js becomes youtu.be/mURz_kJp9js
It’s still a little messy, but handy to know. This is also the how a link will appear if you decide to share it using YouTube’s auto-share options.
Go watch #NervousMusicVideo now! https://t.co/Y6cj0lpZLR pic.twitter.com/tz0D23WYKt
— Shawn Mendes (@ShawnMendes) June 11, 2018
Custom URLs on Google Plus
Despite having had its own URL shortening service until recently, Google Plus doesn’t auto shorten links on its platform. But if your profile meets some basic criteria, you can easily link to your profile using the format: google.com/+CocaCola.
Flic.kr short URLs
When you click share on Flickr, you’ll automatically be presented with a Flic.kr short URL. Like with the YouTu.be URL shortener, the purpose of this is to let internet browsers know that the link they are clicking on leads to Flickr and won’t take them to any malicious or spammy content.
There are lots of different ways to access short links using in-platform URL shorteners. Many of them have limitations – designed specifically for one site or for sharing content from that site. For everything else, there’s Rebrandly.
Our browser extensions have an automatic link detection feature which allows you to shorten your links simply by hovering over them. It works on Twitter, Buffer, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, Medium, Instagram and lots of other platforms. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Are there any platforms we forgot about? Are there any URL shortening services you’d like us to cover? Let us know in the comments below.
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- Instagram URL shortener
This Article is About:
- In-platform URL shortening services
- What is t.co?
- Amazon URL shortener
- Facebook URL shortener
Photo in main image by Marten Bjork via Unsplash