Do Shortened Facebook Links Work To Your Advantage?

Do Shortened Facebook Links Work To Your Advantage? image

Did you ever wonder whether you should shorten your links or leave them as they are when posting them to your fans on Facebook? Both options have their pros and cons but we found out which type gets users clicking and engaging more.

Photos are undoubtedly the most popular content type on Facebook and brands often choose to post visuals to boost their Engagement Rate. We often talk about the power of visual storytelling and the last time we checked (in the first week in December), 77% of the content posted by brand Pages were photos. But how are other types of posts ranked? We asked ourselves how to make links, the second most popular posts (9%), most beneficial for brands.

To Shorten or Not To Shorten URL Addresses? That is The Question

Because sharing is such an important activity in social media, URL shorteners were invented to make communication easier and more organized. These web tools shorten unappealingly long chains of letters, numbers, and characters to make them more manageable and nicer to look at. Plus, you usually want to fill your social space efficiently, by adding a comment or message to the link. You would think that you should be using free shorteners like bit.ly all of the time, but it isn’t as obvious as it seems. The disadvantage to shortened URLs is that sometimes people won’t click on the links, because they are not sure where they lead. Users hesitate when seeing these URLs, since they are so often abused by spammers. Less experienced users may not even know that they should open the link to be redirected to additional content and information.

Short and Sweet? No, Longer and More Authentic

We consulted our data to discover which type of links receives more Facebook interactions (Likes, Comments, Shares) and generates a higher average Engagement Rate. In January this year, 32% of the posted links by Page admins were shortened whereas 68% stayed long. The standard sized URL addresses generated a 15% higher Engagement Rate than the shortened ones. The latest data from December shows an increase in the number of posted shortened links (by about 11% to 36% overall), but an even bigger decrease in average Engagement Rate per post (by an additional 14%). Does that mean that Facebook users trust these links less than they did before?

Visually, links seem more authentic when they are branded and tell you where they are taking you, which is why they generate more engagement. But bear in mind that nothing can be generalized in social media because not everything works for everyone. Maybe your fans trust you to the extent that they interact with all your shortened links. A good compromise would be to utilize services that customize URLs that will keep your links short and sweet, but also branded. And in case you decide to leave them long, don’t forget to delete the URL once your thumbnail and preview of the link are uploaded. That way you won’t duplicate the address and the post will look much neater and more appealing.

Comments Do Shortened Facebook Links Work To Your Advantage?

  1. Hugo Clery (Account Executive at We Are Social) In my case, bit.ly links are branded bit.ly only on my page timeline, not on fans newsfeed, where the url of my website is correctly showed. I think it's the same for everyone for bit.ly, so I don't think the "branded link" argument is valid here. It's maybe caused by Edge Rank, more than users themselves.

    Hugo Clery
  2. Brad Lowrey (Digital Manager at Weber Shandwick) Was this done with all shortened URLs vs full ones? Is there a breakdown between customized shortened URLs (like through bit.ly's Pro service) and generic like ow.ly and bit.ly? It would be interesting to see is a customized URL shortener would make a difference.

    Brad Lowrey
  3. Veronika Fuleova (Social Media Analyst at Socialbakers.com) Hi Brad, we didn´t do a breakdown between customized and generic shortened links but it´s definitely a good idea for another study! Stay tuned!

    Veronika Fuleova
  4. Danny Wolf (Long Distance Brain Surgeon at United States Marine Corps) It depends on the audience demographic, length of the full URL, type of content, whether shortened links are branded vs bit.ly and many other factors. I've conducted several studies where shortened links actually had a higher engagement rate than full ones. It's a bit short-sighted to conclude that full URLs are "better" based on a single study and not analyzing other critical variables. Perhaps, I could submit some of my findings for comparison?

    Danny Wolf
  5. Tyš Síbrůková Hi Danny, we definitely agree with your post. Of course social media managers must take these factors into account because when it comes to social, things must be analyzed on an individual basis. In fact, in this article, we suggested customizing shortened URLs so that admins can get the best of both worlds, short and sweet, yet clear direction. Thank you for your feedback, it is always welcome! [Social Media Editor]

    Tyš Síbrůková
Engage 2014 New York by Socialbakers