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Help Bitly ‘Make the Stage’ at Internet Week!

Every spring, the business and tech worlds come together for Internet Week, a week-long festival that celebrates technology’s impact on business and culture. For four years, Internet Week NY (IWNY) has opened a small number of slots in its schedule to let the public vote for what they want to see on the stage.

This year, YOU can help us ‘Make the Stage’ at IWNY! To vote, you’ll need to create an Internet Week account (don’t worry - it only takes a minute). We’ve submitted two presentations:

  • Move Over Marketers; Consumers are Driving Your Brand:  Social media is undoubtedly the most direct way to influence an audience but brands are taking the backseat as consumers gain share-of-voice. Consumer authority on brand content is skyrocketing - particularly amongst millennials. Consumers are driving how, when and where content is shared online; they’re the marketers of today. What does this mean for brands? Our CEO, Mark Josephson, will discuss how brands can work behind the scenes to steer these next-generation brand ambassadors, leveraging the trust and spotlight consumers have already built on social media to drive marketing strategy.

Vote for this presentation here!

  • Content is the Web’s New Currency: Knowing what your content does as soon as you put it out into the open web is like money in the bank. In this presentation, our CEO Mark Josephson will discuss how marketers can look at the open web as a nearly endless source of audience intelligence. How your content is received and what people do with it used to be an open question, but now the technology exists to collect information in real-time so marketing teams can attack opportunities, increase efficiency and engage directly with previously undiscovered audiences.

Vote for this presentation here!

 

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Keeping shortlinks honest

This post was written for the Bitly blog by our product manager, Dan Touchette.

We recently rolled out a change to Bitly regarding customized keywords and Branded Short Domains. Users who shortened a link to a company’s website were formerly able to create free Custom Keywords and pair them with that company’s Branded Short Domain, making it appear as if the link was created by the company.

Despite previously limiting this capability, users could still manually replace one of our domains with a company’s Branded Short Domain and the shortlink would redirect to the page for which it was originally created. We are now preventing users from manually replacing our domains with a branded one.

We stopped supporting this ability because we understand the importance of the relationship between a brand’s identity and their Branded Short Domain. Now, when a user customizes the back-half of a branded shortlink, the Branded Short Domain will always be replaced with ‘bit.ly,’ ‘bitly.com,’ or ‘j.mp.’

Bitly doesn’t break links. It’s not just a mantra, it’s what we do. By keeping our links permanent, we maintain the integrity of our service and our values as a company.

As a result, we have chosen to support all shortlinks that were created in this way before this change was made. Going forward, if a user manually replaces one of Bitly’s short domains with a company’s Branded Short Domain, those links will not work.

Branded Short Domains are a way for companies to promote their brand and establish trust with their users. Bitly supports companies who want to better control their brand across all of their marketing channels. By preventing the ability described above, we reduce the risk to companies’ brands and prevent the unintended use of brand signals by people who do not own them.

We’re constantly working on ways to increase our security for those who entrust us with their links. At Bitly, we work everyday to make our shortlinks even more powerful and empower those who trust us with their links to take advantage of that power.

If you are a Bitly Brand Tools user and have questions about the change, feel free to reach out directly to your customer success manager. If you’re interested in making your links more powerful with a Branded Short Domain and Bitly Brand Tools, please reach out to brands@bitly.com.

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Bitly at SXSW

This post was written for the Bitly blog by our CEO, Mark Josephson.

When we first started planning for this year’s SXSW, I was skeptical. It would be my second time and Bitly’s first time there as a company since my first trip to SXSW with a team back in 2009. While I had a really great time back then, it wasn’t clear to me this year how we would actually do business amidst the organized chaos that is SXSW.

Coming out of a five-day venture, it’s clear that my assumptions were way off. The conference is filled with decision makers, looking to learn how to make their business better. While it’s mixed with a lot of fun, the business being done there is undeniable.

Every year at SXSW, there are one or two companies or themes that emerge. This year, I was struck by the growth and presence of the social marketing platform.

I had the pleasure of meeting with teams from Hootsuite, Spredfast and Sprinklr, and I was blown away by all of them. Each are actively and aggressively moving to differentiate from each other, contribute to major marketing strategies and claim share for their business.

Additionally, the presence of major brands was incredibly strong. At my first SXSW experience, the Austin Convention Center was crowded with long lines of tech employees waiting to get into coveted panels. This year, representatives from all the major brands were there, actively learning and taking the initiative to further build and develop their marketing strategies.

The convergence of these two scenarios emphasized for me the role Bitly plays in the marketing ecosystem; we’re the connector. Or, to put it in Bitly terms, we are the link.

Just like we link users to their audiences and publishers to their content, we link brands with their platforms. While our presence was not massive, we co-hosted a brunch with Percolate and General Electric, and invited brands, customers and partners for a Superpower Hour, where our guests could discuss serious strategies for building business, connect to others in the industry, and even strike a pose with SuperChauncey in our gif booth.

Bitly at SXSW

It was great to have an open, honest dialogue amongst peers (in the past, we may have called some competitors) about the very real challenges and opportunities in our business. At the forefront of these efforts is the power of the link. While it is short in size, it is undoubtedly strong. The link is the connection between businesses and their audiences, platforms and brands, and users and insights.

Our marketing department is already coming up with bigger and better ideas for how we share Bitly next year, so I guess I should plan to book my hotel room early, like regular attendees do. I can’t even imagine how this conference can grow any more in the city of Austin, but I know I will be there to see it.

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Our growing leadership team: Rob Platzer, CTO, and Melissa Wallace, VP of Marketing

We’re excited to officially welcome the two most recent additions to our leadership team: Rob Platzer as our new Chief Technology Officer and Melissa Wallace as our new Vice President of Marketing.

Rob and Melissa will join Mark Josephson, our CEO, Brian Eoff, our Lead Scientist, and Jehiah Czebotar, our Head of Engineering, to round out our leadership team. We are fully committed to providing our users with data and insights around their shortlinks to help all users make better decisions in today’s connected world, and we know that Rob and Melissa, with their vast knowledge and experience in the digital media realm, are great additions to our leadership team as we develop a full range of tools to help marketers, brands and publishers.

Rob, who formerly served as CTO at AOL’s Patch and Outside.In (which was acquired by AOL), is a tech industry veteran with rich experience in building distributed systems, data-intensive applications and innovative products that connect the world. Combined with his approach to cultivating talent, teams and culture, Rob will be leading our technical strategy and talented team of engineers and data scientists.

Melissa, who is most recently known for rebranding and accelerating the marketing strategy of Buddy Media as the Vice President of Marketing there, brings a strong background in consumer, B2B and agency marketing to business at Bitly. Melissa will be overseeing all of our marketing initiatives, including brand, digital, event, product and content marketing.

“Bitly’s links are an incredibly powerful tool for marketers to build their brands and optimize campaign performance,” Mark said. “The addition of Melissa and Rob to our team accelerates our ability to bring new tools and insights that help our customers make better decisions; all while remaining an essential service to the internet as a whole.”

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Announcing our Moz partnership

At Bitly, we’re always working to empower people to make better decisions by providing insight into the connected world. Our commitment to this statement is why we’re constantly thinking of new and innovative ways to help brands, publishers, agencies and users utilize our data.

We’re excited to announce our partnership with Moz, the industry’s most popular provider of search engine and social optimization software. Moz has chosen us to provide comprehensive click tracking data to discover, score and display inbound links from across the internet. Our data will allow Moz customers to have a clear and complete understanding of who is linking to any website and how relevant or valuable those links are for the brand based on the number and frequency of the clicks.

We have a unique view of how links are shared across the internet, and our differentiated dataset can help all marketers make better decisions. We’re excited to put this into action with Moz so their clients can better understand how content is shared across the web.

 

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A new look and feel: introducing iPhone app version 1.5!

We’re excited to release the latest version of the Bitly iPhone app, now with a sleek, new iOS 7 optimized design. The app is faster than ever and it’s never been simpler to shorten and share your shortlinks.

Bitly Brand Tools customers have greater insights into their shortlinks than ever before. You can manage your team through your sub-account leaderboard. You can also see total click and share counts for all tracking domains, your top shortlinks by clicks and your most frequently shared shortlinks.

Additional highlights include improved stats about the links that you’ve saved. Click count bar graphs have finally been introduced to the app and you can also see a full list of others that have shared the same link.

iPhone stats

Using the new Trending Links tab you can discover popular shortlinks on Bitly in real time. Enter search terms to find trending content, or connect your Facebook and Twitter profile to see what links your friends and followers have saved.

Learn more about the iPhone app and download it now here. Any questions? Email support[at]bitly.com.

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Bitly is Blocked in Venezuela and Why We Care

If you have not heard, Venezuela is suffering from economic imbalances affecting its currency, the Bolivar.  As a result, Venezuelans are searching for information about the value of their currency. Unfortunately, the government has been taking action to restrict access to the free flow of this information.  For more details on what is happening there, read here.

Starting on November 18 and consistently since then, we noticed a change in the traffic we see from Venezuela:

Traffic drop from Venezuela

We believe this change in traffic is related to the government-owned ISP CANTV, which controls most of the Venezuela’s internet traffic. It appears CANTV is actively blocking hundreds of sites that publish information about Venezuela’s currency situation. Further, they appear to be intermittently blocking Bitly because our service makes it easier for people to share content.

We’ve been hearing from users in Venezuela too:

tweettweet

Bitly started as a link shortener to help people share links and understand what happens to those links.  Since then, we’ve grown in many ways.  

We’ve gotten really, really big.  We’re shortening more than two billion links that are generating more than seven billion clicks each month.  We see clicks from almost every website in every country in the world.  

We’ve become more focused on giving individuals and companies insight into their place in the connected world, including a deeper understanding of what happens after they shorten a link.  We track 4.8 billion data points each day and apply insight to that data.  

What’s going on in Venezuela is important. It’s important to the citizens of Venezuela who want to understand the health of their country. It’s important for the rest of us, who might take our access to information for granted.  

Our mission at Bitly is to empower people to better understand the world around them. We hope that the economic strain in Venezuela will be resolved - and sooner rather than later. In the meantime, we will work to find ways to support our users and their access to the free flow of information.

— Mark Josephson, CEO Bitly

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Marketers, fuel your brand for the holiday shopping season!

If you’re a marketer for a retail brand, you’ve definitely spent long hours over many months strategically planning for the fast approaching Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. At this point, most of the hard work is done. However, smart social marketers know that their loyal customers and fans will be sharing their amazing offers all over the social web and are planning for a high-level of activity this week. Owning and monitoring this valuable content is imperative for branding and Bitly has an easy starting solution for marketers.

1. BRAND and CUSTOMIZE your links

Out of the billions of links being shortened at Bitly, the highest performing have two things in common:

  1. They are branded with a branded short domain and

  2. They are customized with a strong and unique call to action using a Custom Vanity Hash.   

For example:

branded tweets

A major retail brand increased their click-through rate by approximately 500% after taking these two simple steps.  

2. PLAN a strategy that understands your audience

You must understand when your audience is listening. Bitly Brand Tools allow you to identify the days and times your audience is most active through the Trend Report, easily accessible in the ‘Reports’ tab. Simply click on ‘Overview’ and then select ‘Trend’ from the dropdown menu. Review these days and times and plan accordingly.

Trend Report example:

time of day information

3. REPOST exceptional offers and content multiple times

Remember: shortlinks have limited half-life, especially on Twitter. Reposting gives your offer the frequency needed to reach more of your audience. Brands who are hesitant about duplicating messages may change some of the language, keeping each post fresh.

Half-life of a link by social network

Twitter – 2.8 hours

Facebook – 3.2 hours

Direct (email/IM) – 3.4 hours

YouTube – 7.4 hours

4. TRACK your holiday campaigns separately from your regular content

By creating a sub-account for your holiday offers, you can track them independently and know the precise performance of each. Segment your reporting by creating sub-accounts with Bitly Brand Tools and easily generate a detailed report with aggregated analytics from all your holiday specific content.  

Save yourself much needed time and look like a rock star when you show your boss specific offer data plus aggregated analytics across all of your content.

BONUS: Are you planning to share your content on several platforms? You can track the performance of each by creating multiple Bitly shortlinks for the same long link, then compare how each performs across social channels or when shared by different individuals.

Learn how to do this here.

Holidays are not the only time to take advantage of this strategy. It can be incorporated into your social media and paid advertising year round to promote new products, seasonal references or exclusive offers.

If you have any questions about your Bitly account, or just want to share your cool holiday branding strategies with us, feel free to reach out to success@bitly.com.

Interested in learning more about Bitly Brand Tools? Send an email to info@bitly.com.

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Tenets for Working Remotely

This was written by one of our system architects, Michael Richman, and originally posted on the Bitly engineering blog.

For the past 15 years, I’ve worked as a remote employee. I currently live in Denver and work for Manhattan-based Bitly. Before that, I was on a Virginia-based team at AOL for 11 years, working from Philly, Dallas, Philly again, New York and then Denver. During that time, I built up some personal tenets for working remotely which have served me well. They are in some ways simple, but when applied consistently, I have found them to foster quite a positive experience for those working with me as a remote individual.

Here they are, captured for others who might benefit from them:

1) Make sure your online presence is accurate. If you’re online on IM, you should really be there. If you’re away from your desk, put up your away message or sign off. You should be almost as easy to reach as people in the office.

2) Call in 5 minutes early to every meeting. When people join a conference call, you should always already be there, on the call, ready to go. You want people to react this way about you, “Of course Michael’s there. He’s always there.” With Skype, this translates simply to, “Answer the moment they call.” With Google Hangouts, it applies directly — be the first one to join.

3) Speak up on calls. Make your presence known and heard. If you never have anything to say, why are you there?

4) If you can’t hear, tell them you can’t hear. If what people are saying has any importance, you should be able to hear it. Same goes for seeing on video calls. If you can’t see what’s being discussed, try to get it remedied.

5) Be productive. If there’s ever a question that you’re not getting your work done as expected, you’ll be the low-hanging fruit precisely because you’re remote. I survived layoff rounds at AOL practically every 6 months for years. I was never concerned, because I knew I always delivered.

6) Make regular trips to the mothership. In-person contact is still needed periodically. I have found about every 6 to 8 weeks to be a pretty good interval.

7) Make your core hours match the company’s core hours. This isn’t always possible, depending on the time difference, but you should strive to achieve at least 3 or 4 hours of overlap. When I worked with a QA group in India for a time, where the time difference was 12.5 hours, we all adjusted our work hours so we could achieve a 3-hour overlap. Before we did that, question-and-answer cycles often took literally 2 days. To answer one question!

8) Figure out what you need others to do differently. You may need to make people aware that working with a remote individual may take some work on their part as well. They may need to be reminded to take extra time to think, “Does Michael need to know about this decision we just made while brewing coffee?” If you are invited to a meeting, is there a call-in number set up? If Skype, who is calling whom?

I find that it doesn’t much matter where I’m working — which tends either to be home or Starbucks — as long as I am able to follow the above tenets. That means if connectivity is important for a given day (which it usually is), it’s my responsibility to make sure I have access to reliable connectivity. If I’m supposed to do a 4-hour planning session, home is the right choice. Solid coding session? Starbucks affords just the right amount of ambient noise, random distraction and caffeine.

It’s worth mentioning that being a remote employee is certainly not for everyone. It takes discipline. You also definitely miss out on at least some of the camaraderie of the in-office experience, which at Bitly is saying something. I haven’t once, for instance, partaken in Drink Cart Friday. This is a problem. Perhaps I need to adjust my travel times….

Oh, and we’re hiring. (Are we hiring remotes? I guess that depends on your tenets for working remotely.)

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Exciting new features in iPhone app version 1.2.7 

Today we’ve released a pretty big update to our iPhone app. A lot of our changes were based on great community feedback from the past few months. The bundles experience has been completely revamped, and there are also added tools to help track stats more efficiently when you’re on the go. You can install the latest version of the app here. Take a closer look at some of our new features below.

Tracking domain stats (paid feature)

For paid clients you can now see stats for all of your tracking domains over the past seven days, or select a particular domain to track. You can learn more about signing up for a paid account here.

tracking domains are available for paid bitly accounts

More insightful stats

You can now visualize your link’s traffic for the past week compared with traffic from all Bitly links pointing to the same content. Use the toggles above the graphs to turn these data sets on and off. 

more insightful stats now in the iPhone app

Scroll down a bit further to see your previous Facebook and Twitter shares or see who else has shared links to the same content.

See who's shared bitly links to the same content

A completely revamped bundle experience

It’s now much easier to sort through your bundles via the app. You also have more control of your bundles with the ability to add and remove curators, delete bundles, or change a bundle title or description.  

improved bundles experience in the iphone app

So what are you waiting for? Download the app here. Have any questions? Email support[at]bitly.com.