Why you should bitlify your links
One key part of growing your audience as an artist/band is finding out where your current audience came from, because most likely you will find a lot more fans where there is already a bit of buzz going. The problem is: Not every platform you or your band uses on the internet gives you all the statistics you need.
Take SoundCloud for instance, what you get (for free) is
- How many plays a song gets
- How often a song is downloaded
- Who comments on your track?
But if you’re like me, you don’t want to dish out 29€/year to see who played it (if they are even logged in) or let alone 79€/year to get any geographical knowledge of your audience. YouTube does this way better; they give you statistics en masse, simply because they want you to be successful as it drives profit to them as well.
The tip I’m going to give you will not work for all occasions, but it can be used everytime you link to a song, video, download etc. from another page, say posting a SoundCloud song on Twitter. Before I go further into this, I’ll tell you how I learned this lesson “the hard way” (not that much was lost, but it was annoying none the less). If you just want to know what to do to get more statistics out of your links, just go ahead and skip the following chapter.
Excursion: A tale of two links
Apart from music, there are a few more hobbies of mine, one of them cosplaying. In summer 2011 my boyfriend and I decided to cosplay Link of The Legend Of Zelda. After attending Gamescom and a German Animanga-Convention, we uploaded the best photos we took on a trip to a local forest to imgur and posted them on reddit’s gaming subreddit. We expected a few fellow cosplayers and Zelda fans to give some (hopefully positive) feedback and a few snickers here and there, because cosplaying is seen as odd in some communities. Instead, the thread went straight to the gaming frontpage and peaked somewhere around rank 17. A score of 1049 and 424 comments later, the view counter on the album counted, slowly, towards the 1 million mark. We honestly couldn’t believe that.
The thing is: That was all information we had as to where people came from to take a look at our little endeavor. Of course, the comments were great, amusing (I still remember reading the top rated comment ‘Which one is the girl …. oh’) and sometimes controversial (can we all just get over this gay issue already? But that’s a different topic…), but after finding a few tweets about us, the only chance of finding out who is posting about or mentioning us was pasting the imgur link into google. We found that the link circulated between Japanese Twitter users, other than that: No information.
The view counter stopped at about 1,196,370 views, it sometimes gains a few clicks thanks to google, but most if not all of those visitors are completely anonymous to us. Now I’m all for anonymity on the internet, but what this is about is finding out where your audience came from to move your activities and interactions in the direction of their origin. Who knows, maybe we could have joined a few cosplay/Zelda forum discussions, answered a bunch of questions or so.
Getting the stats you need
Now back to what we want to gain here. What we want to know, best case, is:
- Where do people find my stuff on the internet?
- When did they find it?
- How many are there anyway?
- Where are they from (geographically)?
And here to save the day is a service that does all that for free: bit.ly
Before I go further, this recommendation is purely based on my experience with bit.ly, not because anyone is paying me to write this. There are plenty of other link-shortening services with statistics; this is just the one I like to use.
Whenever you want to post a link on A that leads to B, you should add bit.ly in-between. Not only does this shorten the possibly long URL, it’s also almost invisible to most people (I’ve been doing this throughout this article, just take a look at the links above), in that it automatically redirects the user to B. What you have to do is simple:
- Make an account on bitly so you can collect all the links you shorten
- Copy the URL to whatever you want to link to (website B)
- Paste it into bitly
- Paste the link on website A
That’s it! What you get out of this is real-time statistics about all four points I mentioned above.
I’ll tell you what these could look like in the next excursion. If you just want a few more tips, skip this one as well.
Excursion 2: Mega success
Internet giant Kim Dotcom has been in the news lately after opening his new service MEGA. First it was only recommended to use Chrome, but after making a Firefox Add-on for his service, I thought of uploading my band’s debut album to MEGA as well (not that I hold Firefox above Chrome, the plan just occurred to me as it made the service more attractive to me). The upload completed surprisingly quickly and I thought I would let Kim know about this. So I composed a tweet with the content:
#MEGA + Firefox works like a charm @KimDotcom! Our debut album #LETTERS is free to download now http://bit.ly/Z1FH7k
Two minutes later: a retweet by Kim himself. That guy has about 280,000 followers on twitter, more people than we could have ever reached until that point. As you can see in the tweet, I had learned my lesson: The MEGA link, which would have been shortened by twitter anyway, simply because of its sheer length, was nicely wrapped with bitly before posting. Immediately I turned to bitly for statistics and watched the clicks happen in real time.
Within 24 hours after posting, we had more than 1000 potential downloaders (who is to say they actually downloaded and listened to the album, all we know is that they reached the download page). We knew that most of them came from twitter but apparently the link was shared among a few facebook users as well. We also noticed that we should expect some Spanish fans to pop up soon. We gained a handful of new followers here and there, but mostly we were just happy that we could reach such a big audience. And if the link wasn’t wrapped in bitly, we could have only guessed (and bitten our asses) about how many it would be.
A few more tips
- Use bitly everywhere you can: Newsletter, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr. etc. Even a year after posting a link, people might just stumble upon it
- Some platforms aren’t specific when it comes to referring, for example we only know that clicks came from facebook, not if it was from a specific page or timeline. But what you can do is create a new bitly link for every (virtual) place you post your link. You just have to make sure that the URL you give bitly to shorten is slightly different, or else they just combine the two into the same shortened link.
For example, on YouTube you get many different links to the same video:
- Regular link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVGUlAAr3Z4
- Shortened link: http://youtu.be/VVGUlAAr3Z4
- Link through playlist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVGUlAAr3Z4&list=PLBEE0040DF497A771&index=1
- Added parameters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVGUlAAr3Z4&feature=youtu.be
These are just four, there are probably ways to get more, especially by adding different parameters. Every one of them produces its own bitly link to track. So if you post your link on your own facebook wall, the wall of a friend and the page of someone else, you can track them individually. You just have to remember which is which.
- To help in this instance: You can “rename” the URL of a bitly link to further organize or tag the links
- Notice that not all websites allow such link shorteners to be used. Stick to the rules of whatever platform you are using!
- If somebody else shortens the same link as you, bitly tells you about this as well! The number of saves at the top of bitly’s statistics page informs you about how many different people saved the same URL
- To quickly get the statistics to any bitly link you encounter, just add a “+” to the URL and instead of being redirected to where the link leads you’ll get all the stats.
That’s it for now, I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial! Please leave your comment, especially if you have questions or more tips and advantages to add to this method.
If you want to support us, here are a few links to my projects:
The Astray (Electrorock/Indiepop): —» Free album on Bandcamp «—
Salt The Skies (Progressive/Alt-Rock):