You have at least seen bit.ly and tinyurl links all over Facebook and twitter. They grew out of the need for shorter urls with the limit of 140 characters in Twitter. Twitter uses these automatically.
However, I use bit.ly even when I don't need shorter links. Why? If you sign up for a free account, you can track exactly how many clicks your link gets. It shows you what country (using bar graphs! I <3 bar graphs!) and which program the links came from.
It will also track any twitter conversations containing your link. So if someone retweets your link, it shows up there. Also, it shows the number of shares, likes and comments on Facebook. So if you have a need (or just a desire, like me) to track how many people are clicking your links, I highly recommend bit.ly.
2) Google Reader
If you read any blogs with any sort of regularity, Google Reader is indispensable. You 'subscribe' to your blogs and they show up in a feed, much like an email inbox. Depending on your settings, it will mark each item as 'read' when you read it. *
Some of the great features include:
- Being able to search the blog posts with the option of narrowing it down by an individual blog, among other things
- You can follow other people. This comes into play mainly when they 'share' a post and it appears in your Reader.
- The ability to "star" an item. I use this to mark posts that I don't want to keep unread, but would like to come back to later.
- A subscribe button that you can drag into your web browser for easy subscription
- Aside from blogs, you can also subscribe to any website with any kind of 'feed.' For example: Each Barnes and Noble store has an RSS feed for their events so when they post a new event, I get a notification of it in my Reader.
- A great mobile site. Just go to reader.google.com on your phone.
- One negative: you cannot comment via Reader. You must visit the actual site to read and leave comments.
You can use Google Alerts to email you whenever a certain word or phrase appears on websites, news articles or blogs. It can also be set up to feed into your Google Reader (see above).
If you are a writer, you can get alerts on your name or the title of your book. If you are tracking a certain legal case, you can receive notifications when that case is discussed online. If you're in to horse racing, you can get a notification every time your favorite horse is discussed online. If you manage the social media efforts for your company, you NEED to have a Google Alert set up for the name of your company.
TIP: If your phrase contains several common words, put the phrase in quotation marks.
- For example: I have one set up for "Phi Sigma Rho." I initially entered it in without the quotation marks and it gave me any instance where the three individual words appeared on the same page so I ended up with a ton of useless alerts with listings of fraternal organizations and Greek spellings.
* One last tip (consider it a bonus):
If you have a blog, make sure that your blog's Site Feedsettings are set to Full, not Short. If you set it to short, only the first paragraph or so will be displayed when someone subscribes to you via RSS or Google Reader. Some people may do this on purpose because they want people to actually go to their site, but it can often have the opposite affect because it pisses your readers off. Also, if your reader, like me, reads mainly on their cell phone (Google Reader has a GREAT mobile site) they will never read your posts past the first 250 characters. To check/change your setting in Blogger go to: Settings -> Site Feed -> Allow Blog Feeds. For all other blog platforms, see the Help section.
In closing, I hope this info has helped some of you who are new to managing an online presence! Also, if you have any particular online tools that you can't live with out, please let me know in the comments section!