OUseful.Info, the blog…

Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education

Amplification Tracking – bit.ly Stats

As I find less and less people linking to OUseful.info and more and more traffic coming from twitter, it struck me that I needed another source of ego boost juice. So here’s one… how many people click through on links I share on Twitter?

One easy way of tracking this is to use bit.ly. If you get yourself a bit.ly account, you’ll find it also comes with an API key (you can find it on your bit.ly account page). This can be used in some Twitter clients (I use Tweetdeck) to generate a short URL that can be tied back to your bit.ly account. (Configure Tweetdeck by going to Settings, and then looking for the Services tab, where you’ll find a slot to enter your bit.ly API key.)

So what sorts of stats do you get back? Summary ones like these:

and these:

and more useful conversation tracking stats at the link level, like this:

You’ll notice for this link that several bit.ly URIs have been minted for the same web page (the total number of clicks exceeds the number of clicks from my link). So I can track the extent to which the bit.ly link I generated drove traffic, either directly from my tweet or other folk retweeting the link (or sharing it on without referencing @psychemedia back), or from other folk who generated a shortened link to the same post.

Let’s see who those people might be, in the context of the conversations surrounding this bit.ly shortened link (and other bit.ly variants that resolve to the same page):

So what’s all this good for? A couple of things spring to mind:

1) tracking conversation around OUseful.info posts that are reference the post via a bit.ly short link;

2) monitoring the extent to which I have managed to amplify a post, by virtue of the number of people who have clicked on it;

3) monitoring the extent to which other people have in turn amplified the bit.ly link I minted;

4) identifying other conversations around the same linked to web page via other bit.ly URIs that resolve to the same web page.

I can’t think why I didn’t sign up to bit.ly sooner?

PS note to self – how might we make use of this in a WriteToReply context?

PPS could this info be used as part of a “link community” tracker, cf. hashtag communities?

Written by Tony Hirst

January 12, 2010 at 11:57 am

8 Responses

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  1. Tony, one issue I have seen is that people are getting different stats from bit.ly and then the resulting conversion in either Google Analystics or blog package analytics.

    Several people have talked about bots being responsible for the difference in rates (can’t find the links at the mo, but will share in due course).

    Still a very useful and interesting way of keeping on top of what messages you are putting out there.


    January 12, 2010 at 12:04 pm

  2. Yes I have being using this to guage the effectiveness of my institution’s Twitter account. It’s one thing to boast x followers but how many are actually interacting with you? No way to tell but a Tweet announcing a new eresource link tracked by bit.ly helps. Google analytics is the other way, but you don’t always link to pages you control or they don’t have GA code included.

    Aaron Tay

    January 12, 2010 at 12:17 pm

  3. Hi Tony

    Was thinking about your PPS and hashtags point as I was reading this. That would be useful for an organization like us at CETIS for getting some more stats from our meetings/conferences where we have (networks permitting) quite a bit of twitter traffic.


    Sheila MacNeill

    January 12, 2010 at 2:07 pm

  4. @egrommet Reconciling stats from different analytics packages is one of those things I’ve never managed to crack…

    @sheila I keep meaning to revisit some of the bits and pieces I started putting together around the idea of the social life of a URL (eg http://ouseful.open.ac.uk/blogarchive/014544.html ), and combining this – somehow – with the hashtag community stuff (link communities, maybe?). Ideally, what would you want to be able to do track around your CETIS events? What sort of thing would you want a report to like?

    Tony Hirst

    January 12, 2010 at 5:56 pm

  5. Your post (and Aaron’s comment above) reminded me about bit.ly’s API – another good source of monitoring data to add to my digital dashboards:


    I’ve written a little module tonight which runs the organisation’s recent bit.ly links (which you can get as an RSS feed) through the API (which returns JSON) to count the number of clicks, and builds an HTML fragment within the dashboard.

    Steph Gray

    January 13, 2010 at 12:27 am

    • @steph that reminds me – I meant to do a Yahoo pipe recipe demoing such a feature ;-) Btw, has anyone picked you up on requesting the dashboard code? Example dashboards are something I want to build for WriteToReply docs, though I’m not sure about pros/cons of having dashboards as public surfaces or hidden in, and exposed through, a wordpress admin page?

      Tony Hirst

      January 13, 2010 at 5:30 pm

  6. really helpful overview to share with peorle I’m working with, thank you

    I too use bit.ly I notice that I get three, sometimes four follows within a couple of seconds of posting anything form bit.ly – much too quickly to be a human response and very consistent whether a post gets 10 or 15 clicks – which is my average – or a biggie like 250

    My suggestion is that it is good for showing trends, not as an absolute count. A high scoring link shows you what the people in your network are interested in – assuming you tend to post at similar times of day or on broadly related topics

    A low score doesn’t necessarily mean lack of interest though – I see it as helping to define real niche topics that I may keep plugging away at

    I also like the ability to track the conversation, particularly when you kick off a good link which is then regurgitated through someone else’s network instead of being retweeted within yours

    Take care

    SCIP, Brighton, UK


    January 13, 2010 at 11:10 am

  7. @Tony @Steph

    Really interesting ideas , Tony please do up a blog post on that ASAP! :)

    Aaron Tay

    January 16, 2010 at 8:36 am

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