2009-12-14 - I'm currently updating this article based on recent changes at Twitter. You can now post up to 139 character URIs without invoking the URI shortening routine. This is BIG news but, there are currently some flaws that you'll need to look out for. More information forthcoming.
Last Modified: 2009-05-07 - I've been using Twitter now since 2008-07-25 at 09:24 PDT. That was the minute my world opened up to Social Media thanks to @GregBoser and his persistent nudging via IM.
While learning the ropes of the Twitter platform, I also began testing different things that could be advantageous from a variety of marketing perspectives. I'm going to share with you my testing on URI Conversions and how to prevent them from happening. There is one very good reason you'll want to do this.
Search for your domain name at the above. How many times did you find a reference? Of course it was an unconverted URI. But, how many other references are there that have been converted that you cannot find? That presents a slight challenge doesn't it?
Some of the URI Shortening Services have addressed this through tracking mechanisms which of course requires additional work on your part in monitoring your brand identity. Why bother? You do have some control over what happens to your URI during a Tweet.
Update: Since posting this article on URI Conversions, take a look at all of those Retweeted SEOConsultants.com branded references appearing in the above Twitter search. That's really nice. Thank you everyone for proving my points.
Here's a screenshot of Twitter's "What are you doing?" web form with 140 characters available.
I've figured out that everything appears to be treated as 2 lines of 70 characters when formatting Tweets. For those of you who have long Title Slug URIs that exceed the 65-70 character mark, you can just forget about this exercise (see 2009-05-07 Addendum). You will be relegated to branding whatever URI Shortening Service you may be using (Twitter's default URI Shortener is bit.ly as of 2008-05-06). That's a real bummer too as I'm about to show you.
You've probably never heard that term and neither did I until I coined it recently while writing an article on Twitter URI Shortening Services.
What is a URI Short? Nothing other than your own shortened versions of URIs using your own shortening. Avoid the middle man if you can. Some of you have no choice and you'll of course not have this major branding benefit available to you. If you're a Blogger promoting your name and you are using Title Slugs and long URI paths with hyphens, underscores or any other characters treated as separators, you're missing a major opportunity to brand.
If you've really got all your ducks in a row, your URIs will be short to begin with. You'll have followed the suggestions made back in the early 90s that URIs should be concise and never change. Planning for that type of scalability is a bit challenging and definitely has its long term rewards.
If your ducks are a bit disorganized, and you have long unruly hyphen and/or underscore laden URIs, then you'll have some challenges implementing a branding effort in this area particularly at the deeper levels of your click paths. You could roll your own URI shortening routine.
Addendum - URIs must be clean and without any word separators like hyphens or underscores (after character position 30). Hyphenated words, concatenated words or single word file paths using a slash as a separator work well. Keep in mind that once your URI reaches 31 characters, it will automatically truncate. If you have exactly 30 characters, it will remain fully visible within the Tweet without truncation. Once you reach character 31, truncation occurs and the URI gets trimmed to 27 visible characters and three dots ... (ellipsis), 30 total. The anchor reference remains intact but the visual shows truncation.
Note the above example truncates (...) at character position 30. This URI is exactly 130 characters without conversion. Look closely at the URI construct. Single words, slash separated similar to tagging. Of course I went overboard to demonstrate proof of concept and you can actually do 139 characters without breaking the link. I surely wouldn't want to see a bunch of Tweets with 139 character URIs in my Timeline but with today's lack of respect for URI structure, 139 characters is pocket change.
There is one major drawback to URIs that truncate at 30 characters, Twits like to cut and paste from the visible Tweet not realizing they are only getting the first 27 characters and 3 dots. I've seen it happen regularly.
I can't guarantee you'll achieve 100% success but, you will surely have a higher success rate than most at this point in time until the word gets out. A quick search at http://Search.Twitter.com/ will reveal just how many are missing the mark on this important aspect of marketing. And here I thought ya'll were Social Media Gurus, what's up with that?
I have some additional tips to share for this process. You can force line breaks in your Tweet. If you are not sure about whether or not your URI will convert, try forcing it to the second line of your Tweet. Or, if you have a word or two at the end of the first 70 characters that fragments to the second line, force a line break in front of the longer word to get it on the second line and avoid that long word "pushing" a conversion on the first line. If you are not sure of this, just keep thinking of it from the 2 lines of 70 characters rule. Long words in the 60-70 character range (per line) may push a conversion on that line. Force a line break and beat the conversion.
Use the Twitter Web Interface to test this theory as it will display the raw results you are looking for. Not what your third party application may be doing. In fact, I think some of the third party applications may override what you are attempting to do with the non-conversion process.
What happens in the Twitter Web Interface is exactly what the search engines are indexing, it is first to market, the application APIs follow. I don't want to hear the NoFollow argument either. Even if the entire Twitter platform were blocked via robots.txt, you should not be concerned with that if you are using Twitter for Social Media Marketing.
You may also want to read my other related articles in this area. Take the above one step further and start using Pascal Casing to enforce the visibility and easy readability of your branded domain name. Get on board, not many are doing it just yet. I've been experimenting with it for months and I like it!
will be providing a follow up post to this related to Retweets. They need to be scrubbed in some instances depending on how many times the original Tweet has been Retweeted and what has been added to the Tweet during its first round of exposure. The Tweet scrubbing needs to be done so that you can maintain the domain brand as it travels through the network.
Unfortunately this portion of the exercise is now out of your control and it might be a good practice to point your followers to a set of instructions on how to best Retweet for maximum brand visibility. I scrub my Retweets all the time.