Using Links & Link Shorteners: Day Five of #MMJC10DoT

You can’t say a lot in 140-280 characters – but you can capture someone’s interests and link to other places on the web where a topic can be discussed at greater length, perhaps in an article or blog post. Maybe you’ve seen a new story, item of news or a webpage you want to comment on or pass on to your followers. Perhaps you’ve just posted something on a blog or website, uploaded a resource or published an article and you want to encourage people to have a look. Twitter works really well as a way to bring people’s attention to other, longer things online.

You can simply copy and paste a website’s URL into a tweet. However, many URLs are pretty long, and even if they fit into 140 characters, it leaves less space for you to add a contextualising explanation or comment which will encourage people to click on the link. Fortunately, Twitter has an inbuilt URL shortener, which will cut the link down to 23 characters. (Even if the actual URL is shorter.)

The best advice nowadays, is to use the Twitter link shortener, rather than another service. This avoids redirect issues, and makes your links more trustworthy.

When tweeting a link, it’s good practice to begin your tweet with a brief comment explaining what it is and why you’re tweeting it. A URL by itself doesn’t necessarily say much about content or provenance, and a shortened URL using one of the above services gives nothing away at all about what it is. Your followers will likely ignore your tweet and the link if they can’t immediately see what it’s about, where it’s from and why they should be interested.

A tweet with only a shortened link in it is very likely to be spam and senders of such tweets are likely to be blocked (here’s how to block users if you get such spam tweets). Moreover, it might be assumed that by sharing a link, you are endorsing the content, so if not, it would be as well to add a comment stating your stance on it – do you agree, or disagree? Or is it simply that you found it useful and think your followers might too? Another reason to keep the URL as it is rather than use a URL shortener is longevity – if that URL shortening service is withdrawn, the link will no longer work. It’s a trade-off between keeping it short, having some comment and analytics, and longevity and a bit more context in the URL.

So what might you link to?

  • a news story with a comment on how it’s reported
  • an announcement or media conference of interest
  • a book or article you recommend (or don’t recommend…)
  • a blog post you found interesting (and whether you agree or not)
  • a video on youtube or vimeo, perhaps of a presentation or talk, or public engagement
  • something you’ve uploaded yourself. This is a good way to drive traffic to your own material, but don’t forget the 80/20 rule!

You’re not expected to spend time deliberately looking for links to tweet to your followers; this is more a byproduct from anything you happen to be doing online anyway. And with more and more sites including a ‘Share This’ button or buttons for the various social media platforms, it’s very easy and quick to do. This is part of journalism and communication in the digital age – it costs you very little to share your useful daily digital finds with others, so why not?

See what you come across today online, and remember to tweet it to your followers!

Day Six

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Western University: Faculty of Information & Media Studies

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