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Analytics. The word inspires visions of mathematicians in white lab coats tirelessly poring over pages and pages of computer data. Perhaps that’s not the role you see yourself in while promoting your business through social media — but if you’ve ever checked to see how many likes a Facebook post received, then you realize the value of data that tells you how you are doing and helps you formulate a plan to get better. This is the essence of analytics.

For the average entrepreneur at the helm of his or her business’ social media presence, learning and using Google Analytics or another full-scale web analytics platform may not only be imposing, but nearly impossible with a busy schedule, and in turn a lot of valuable feedback about your web performance gets lost. Even if you hire a web marketing company to monitor your analytics for you, there are so many situations in which having even the most basic analytical data at your fingertips can be extremely helpful in your social media efforts.

A good example is that Facebook post you made. If it included a link to your business’ website or blog, wouldn’t you like to know how many people clicked that link? Well, you can — by using a free service called bitly.

If you’ve spent any time on Twitter, you are probably already familiar with link shortening services and the odd-looking links they generate (for example: What you may not know is that bitly offers easy-to-access analytics for all the links generated by the free service — even if you don’t have an account.

Try this: Paste the above link into a new browser window and hit enter. You should have been taken to a popular YouTube video. Now paste the link in the browser again, but this time add a plus sign after it. (The link will look like this:

Now hit enter. Voilà! Basic but easily-accessible analytics in real time. The data tells you how many clicks the link has received, when the link was clicked on, who shared the link where the link was shared, and the geographical distribution of clicks.

Another useful tool bitly offers on the link’s stats page is a QR code for that link. This can be found to the left of the orange email icon at the top of the page. A QR code is a printable coded version of the link that can be scanned by most any smartphone or tablet. Why is this useful? Imagine you’re at a conference passing out business cards. If your card contained a QR code for a bitly link to your website, you’d be able to know how many people scanned the code on your card. Knowing the number and time of click-throughs on a QR code can even help you test out different versions of printed advertisements.

To create your own bitly link, just go to If you sign up for the free bitly account, you’ll be able to store and organize the links you’ve generated and, even more importantly, use bitly on a smartphone through a variety of third-party apps. Bitly even offers its own iPhone app and a WordPress plugin.

Bitly is a great way to gain deeper insight to the interest you’re generating with your social media posts. Taking into account that it’s free, easy to use, and accessible from any smartphone, it may very well change the way you think about the word “analytics.”

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