The URL Shorteners that will get you the Most (or Least) ReTweets





We know that most ReTweets contain a link, but there are hundreds of different URL shortening services available to help you save space with that link. I analyzed my database of over 30 million ReTweets and compared them to over 2 million random Tweets to find which shorteners are the most (and least) ReTweetable.

I calculated how much more or less often each URL shortening service appeared in ReTweets than it did in normal Tweets and presented this value as a percentage. For instance, in my data 9.28% more ReTweets than random Tweets used bit.ly. I took into account the fact that ReTweets tend to contain more links than average Tweets and normalized the occurrence values.

The short, post-Twitter shorteners, bit.ly, ow.ly, and is.gd were all more ReTweetable than the older, longer, tinyurl.

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{ 35 comments }

Jim Spencer August 26, 2009 at 6:58 am

Dan, can you explain this a bit more? How does this information compare with a ranking of most used URL shorteners on Twitter? The late comer URL shorteners maybe more well known among twitterers or may be offered by third party Twitter apps and grease monkey scripts. I have trouble drawing a connection to something being more RT-able due to the shortener. I would understand if the point was to show which shortener is used most in RTs. Do you think that most used equals increasing your chances of being retweeted? Is bit.ly the default for a ton of services and apps? Maybe the RT says more about the content than the URL shortener. Curious if you stand by your title.

danzarrella August 26, 2009 at 7:18 am

You're right to point out that causation is a troublesome conclusion to draw, but in the case of ow.ly for example, it has a retweet button in the bar it puts across target URLs.
bit.ly being the default also means its typically the shortener used in the little tweetmeme badges.

mark lazen August 26, 2009 at 8:01 am

Very interesting, Dan. Thanks. What about secondary/ancillary networks that some of these shortners tap into–su.pr greases the skids onto stumbleupon, for instance. Which is the best package deal?

danzarrella August 26, 2009 at 8:07 am

I only included the most common shorteners that exhibited some siginificant bias towards retweetability or not, so I didn't include su.pr

davematson August 26, 2009 at 8:19 am

Interesting stuff, but I am speculating that the success of tweetmeme and maybe other similar services that use bit.ly is the real story here.

howardfreeman August 26, 2009 at 8:22 am

Fascinating, Dan. I've always used bit.ly because it's the first one i came across and i liked the analytics after the fact. Good to know it's a winner.

Ari Herzog August 26, 2009 at 8:27 am

…but you did include su.pr, as it's listed in third place.

I'm more curious about the retweetability of shorteners from the perspective of those that track links and provide analytics, e.g. bit.ly, tr.im, su.pr, etc. Tinyurl doesn't provide analytics.

danzarrella August 26, 2009 at 8:38 am

Oh, oops, I meant digg's shortener.

jeremyhilton August 26, 2009 at 9:26 am

You've essentially made the case that the link shortener used by the original author is a factor in whether that update is subsequently retweeted or not. I don't buy it. There must be something else going on here.

In your calculations did you account for messages that were inherently unretweetable — those messages that were very close to the 140 character limit when originally authored? I would suspect that your sampling of 2 million tweets should be limited to messages somewhere under 120 characters.

Also, over what period of time were your 30 million retweets and 2 million tweets authored?

I look to your Science of ReTweets presentation that states that 1.44% of tweets are retweets. However, a similar study by Pear Analytics reports that in August of 2009, 8.7% of tweets were retweets. This is a pretty significant variance.

http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?R=1007238

abrahamvegh August 26, 2009 at 9:33 am

I would imagine that these results are considerably skewed to favor bit.ly, seeing as there are just a sheer larger amount of bit.ly links floating around.

danzarrella August 26, 2009 at 9:58 am

Yeah, my retweet percentage # worried me too. That number was taken from data collected by twitter.grader.com and presented in state of the twittersphere, our sample set was 5million random Tweets.

And you raise a great point about tweets under 120 chars, thank you.

danzarrella August 26, 2009 at 9:59 am

I compared the % of random tweets that had bit.ly and retweets that did, so sheer volume should have nothing to do with it.

abrahamvegh August 26, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Ah, okay. Makes more sense now. :)

AdamPieniazek August 26, 2009 at 12:44 pm

I think it's fair to say that the big reason behind this is bit.ly being the standard across many apps. Still interesting to see that the short shorteners dominate the top.

danzarrella August 26, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Please read this comment

Jarkko Laine August 26, 2009 at 9:30 pm

I think it's indeed very dangerous to draw conclusions that there is any causality between the URL shortening service you choose and the retweets it will get. All your data tells is that people who get retweeted a lot (i.e. are popular) seem to favor bit.ly. That might as of itself be a reason to use it, for sure.

However, your title and post implies that choosing bit.ly would get _you_ more retweets, which is complete bullshit. Bit.ly is high up on that list because people who got retweeted a lot used it, not the other way round. They didn't get retweeted more because they used bit.ly, and neither will you.

Mat August 27, 2009 at 1:20 am

I am not sure i am keen on these url shortening devices. They could help the bad guys out there distribute malicious software. i am thinking here specifically of game forums, where most users know that domains that end with .cn are to be avoided like the plague.

jacd August 27, 2009 at 8:50 am

Twitter uses bit.ly as its default for long urls' so its going to be the biggest. Many still put in URl's and aren't even aware of shortners, Twitter is doign the work for them. Doesn't amke the tweet any more or less retweetable though.

Bit like saying if you use IE then you'd get retweeted more, when most non tech people will use IE as it built in. ergo more retweets will come from an IE browser.

SEO Doctor August 31, 2009 at 6:29 pm

On this topic Rand Fishkin has also done some research on the number of retweets and the correlation to gaining links to your site. There is a correlation, so get the retweets working for you.

Lesley Dewar September 2, 2009 at 6:01 pm

This is an interesting survey, because I find that my web browser (IE8) often times out on bit.ly and is.gd and I suspect that bit.ly is used so much in Twitter because, if my memory serves me correctly without checking back, it is the first option that TweetDeck offers. I find that tinyurl.com gets a much better response time through IE8. Just an observation.

inky September 3, 2009 at 10:44 am

Fascinating. I had no idea that Twitter's default url shortener was so effective at being the default url shortener for Twitter. This research is eye-opening. A+++++++ WOULD SWALLOW AGAIN

Eric Hellman September 8, 2009 at 11:17 am

One of the things I learned from writing an article for my blog on tr.im was that while it's pretty simple to develop and deploy a URL shortener, it's not so easy to run one that can service the spiky load created by an Ashton Kutcher or Oprah tweeted link. If retweets are skewed towards top-100 Twitterers, you might see the bias you're seeing simply because the top-100 tend to use only the shorteners that are best engineered to handle them.

ChrisStigson September 24, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Isn't this happening because most of the services/automated robots etc use Bit.ly to track everything? Personally I like Su.pr a lot as well, since it easily integrates with StumbleUpon =)

It will show you “clicks” and “stumbles” which is very fun to see the difference in traffic coming from each of the two.

- Chris

simzaolly October 7, 2009 at 10:45 am

Why do you use tinyurl while tweeting when your own research shows that they are least Retweetable. I'm sure you will want to get Retweets, but I'm just curious if you are actually doing some research on tinyurl itself.

Facebook User November 8, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Correlation is not causation.

Bill B December 1, 2009 at 6:24 am

Bit.ly is the default shortener in Twitter so it kind of is a common sense finding, yes? I usually use Hootsuite. I also like to use http://cru.ms which has some advanced features to manage my campaigns. As far as RT-ability? I think content is what makes it savory… the fact that bit.ly is the most common shortener makes it the most retweeted, duh…

Bill B December 1, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Bit.ly is the default shortener in Twitter so it kind of is a common sense finding, yes? I usually use Hootsuite. I also like to use http://cru.ms which has some advanced features to manage my campaigns. As far as RT-ability? I think content is what makes it savory… the fact that bit.ly is the most common shortener makes it the most retweeted, duh…

clatko March 13, 2010 at 10:59 pm

And how does j.mp fare in all this?

Dave Puckett March 18, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Yes I have seen the widespread use of bit.ly in Twitter but my experience in these links being inactive when I click on them in Twitter and Facebook has shown me unreliability so I have avoided becoming a client and user. Even sometimes when I copy and paste a dead bit.ly link into a browser it is still not working. This is an occasional experience but for me a concern, and No it's not the computer, other links work fine. Does bit.ly have reliability issues?

George M. April 27, 2010 at 9:29 am

It would be interesting to repeat this analysis now that Google and Facebook are also on the market.

felipus June 4, 2010 at 9:57 pm

What about custom short domains? Are they more o less retweetable?

Xavi izaguirre August 4, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Could it be that bit.ly is usually used for people that will say more interesting stuff or are more popular anyway, since it is a better overall shortener???? You think that would account for 9% of your results. i personally don't think the shortener you'd use would make a difference in the number of retweets you would get.

thanks for this is great :)

Xavi izaguirre August 4, 2010 at 3:48 pm

“the fact that bit.ly is the most common shortener makes it the most retweeted, duh… “

Well, the data is normalised mate….of course

Xavi izaguirre August 4, 2010 at 3:49 pm

There you go! That is what i thought….

Sonia Winland September 28, 2010 at 6:53 pm

I currently use this now and but didn’t know there were others out there. Great article.

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