Building Brand Identity Through Custom Short URL’s

It’s no secret that Twitter has revolutionized link sharing.  Sure, there are other ways to send links out to your friends (email, Delicious, Facebook, etc), but never before has it been so easy, quick, or had the potential to be seen by so many.

In the same manner that Facebook power-pages like Big Prize rely on user-sharing, the practice of “Re-Tweeting” updates on Twitter can make your content visible to unknown hundreds.  The main thing standing between you and this unreached, information-searching population?  Brand identity.

In regards to social media, there is a myth that one must be easy going and personable when sharing links on Twitter.  That’s just not true.  While it is often the best approach, there are many web giants (blogs, news sites, and corporations) that use Twitter to great success without a personal approach.  This is often partly due to fame but often, it’s because they have created a great brand identity – one that is trusted by the masses (see Google, Mashable, etc).

So, how do you create brand identity in 140 characters or less?  One of the easiest ways is to have your own custom short URL – especially if you do lots of link sharing.  Until recently, users were limited to a small selection of short url sites – Bit.ly, Is.gd, etc.  While these services provide great usability and features, they don’t provide the end-user (i.e., the one clicking the link) the comfort of knowing what exactly they are clicking.  Obviously, the best method is to have created an online identity that is trusted – though this is becoming less and less important with account hacking and spam.

Apart from the simple cool factor, having your own custom URL can help establish a trusted online identity – whether you are a power blogger or simply an everyday link-sharer.  For you to post the link, you must have had access to both your shortening service AND Twitter.  Hopefully this will help ensure others that they aren’t clicking spam.

There are a few options (most of which I have tried), but the easiest to set up and maintain, at least in my opinion, is YOURLS.  The best thing about this service is that it’s self-hosted – meaning if the YOURLS site ever gets shut down, your links will still work. It provides great traffic statistics and sharing options as well.

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What You Will Need:

  • Domain Name – preferably something short (I chose http://rybo.us)
  • Webhost
  • Database

Installation is easy.  Simply follow the steps below and you’ll be sharing links in no time.

  1. Purchase your domain and set up hosting.  If you have a Deluxe account at GoDaddy, you can just host the domain on your account and point it to a new folder.  If you do this, make sure you are hosting the domain and not simply forwarding it to the folder – otherwise your URL’s won’t work!
  2. Set up a SQL database.  If you have a hosting account, there’s a good chance you have a few extra databases you are allowed to create.  Simply choose a name, login username and password.  Remember this information for step 4.
  3. Download YOURLS from Google Code.
  4. Unzip this folder and navigate to includes/config.php.  Open this file in a text editor.  Fill in the following information:
    • YOURLS_DB_USER
      your MySQL username
      Example: 'joe'
    • YOURLS_DB_PASS
      your MySQL password
      Example: 'MySeCreTPaSsW0rd'
    • YOURLS_DB_NAME: The database name
      Example: 'yourls'
    • YOURLS_DB_HOST
      The database host
      Example: 'localhost'
    • YOURLS_DB_PREFIX
      The name prefix for all the tables YOURLS will need
      Example: 'yourls_'
    • YOURLS_SITE
      Your (short) domain URL, no trailing slash
      Example: 'http://ozh.in'
    • YOURLS_HOURS_OFFSET
      Timezone GMT offset
      Example: '-5'
    • YOURLS_PRIVATE
      Private means protected with login/pass as defined below. Set to false for public usage (on an intranet for instance)
      Example: 'true'
  5. Save config.php and upload all of the files to the directory you created.
  6. Navigate to http://example.com/admin – and you’re ready to start short-linking!
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