Twitter’s simplicity is one of the reasons the social media platform has become so popular. Status updates are limited to a maximum of 140 characters, but it’s surprising how much information you can pack into such a small space. Inevitably, however, you’ll want to share a link to some great content, and your tweet will tip past the 140-character limit. Enter the solution: URL shorteners.

URL shorteners are tools which make long hyperlinks much shorter, enabling you to include useful links in your tweets without having to worry about going over the character limit. The best link shorteners, however, have additional features like statistics tracking, click counters, and link customization. Here are five powerful URL shorteners to help you get the most out of your Twitter status updates.

5 Twitter URL Shorteners With Awesome Features

1. TinyURL.com

In Internet years, TinyURL.com could be considered the grandfather of all URL shorteners. It’s been around for years, and was one of the first link shorteners to be widely used on Twitter. It’s still a useful application today, and it boasts the following powerful features.

  • No account required: You don’t need to sign up for an account to use TinyURL.com. Just go to the website tinyurl.com, paste your long link in the field titled “Enter a long URL to make tiny, ” and click the “make TinyURL!” button to create your shortened link.
  • Add TinyURL to your browser’s toolbar: Make TinyURL even easier to use by creating a link shortener button on the toolbar of your favorite browser. Drag the “TinyURL!” link to your browser’s toolbar, and create short links simply by clicking the button.
  • Hide affiliate links: If you’re an affiliate marketer, sometimes links to your sales commission pages can be stolen and exploited by an imposter. TinyURL allows you to hide your affiliate links and keep them safe from hijackers.
  • Customize your link: You can enter a vanity extension to your TinyURL by adding any word or characters you’d like in the “Custom alias” field.
  • It’s free: TinyURL is a free/by-donation application.

2. Bit.ly

Bit.ly is arguably one of the most popular and widely used URL shorteners on the web today. In fact, it’s the link shortener used in our own social media management application, Sprout Social. Here are some of the more powerful features of Bit.ly.

  • Real-time stats: Once you’ve created a shortened URL with Bit.ly, copy and paste the link in your browser. Append a “+” at the end of the URL to see a variety of useful, real-time statistics for that link.
  • No account required: For basic link shortening functionality, no account is required. Simply copy and paste your long link to be shortened on Bit.ly’s website. For more advanced features, you can create a Bit.ly account, or sign in using Twitter, or Facebook.
  • Customize your link: With a Bit.ly account, you can create a customized short link.
  • Archived links: When you’re logged into your Bit.ly account, every shortened link you create is archived in your account, so you can re-use (and analyze) the link at any time.
  • Sidebar bookmarklet: Bit.ly’s “Sidebar Bookmarklet” is a mini version of Bit.ly that allows to create short links, check stats, and even tweet a shortened link, right from the sidebar of your browser.
  • Custom domain: Bit.ly’s “Custom Domain” option allows you to replace the Bit.ly portion of your shortened link with your own branded version. For example, The New York Times uses the Bit.ly link shortening engine with their custom domain, “nyti.ms.” Refer to Bit.ly’s Custom Short Domain page for technical requirements.
  • Free and paid editions: The core Bit.ly application is free. Bit.ly also offers a paid, enterprise edition, which includes an enhanced dashboard, end-to-end branding, and customer support.

5 Twitter URL Shorteners With Awesome Features

3. Is.gd

Although a lesser known URL shortener, Is.gd offers a few unique features worth checking out.

  • No account required: Is.gd is free and requires no account, or sign-in. Just visit is.gd and paste your long link in the text entry field, then click the “Shorten!” button to get your short link.
  • Customize your link: You can create a customized link by clicking the “Further options/custom URL” dropdown menu, just below the text entry field. Type the customized text you’d like in the field titled, “http://is.gd/.”
  • Force lower case: Most shortened links are made up of random, upper and lower case, alphanumeric characters. Is.gd gives you the option to force lower case letters in your shortened link, making it easier to read. Click the “Further options/custom URL” dropdown menu, then select the radio button titled “Lower case” to enable this option.
  • Create a pronounceable link: You can also make your link easier to read, pronounce, and share. Click the “Further options/custom URL” dropdown menu, then select the radio button titled “Lower case pronounceable” to create a reader-friendly short link.
  • Log statistics: To enable statistics tracking of your shortened link, click the “Further options/custom URL” dropdown menu, then select the check box titled, “Log statistics for this link.” To view the statistics, append a “-” at the end of the shortened URL.
  • QR code generator: If your marketing mix includes mobile, Is.gd provides an easy to use QR code generator on its site. To create a QR Code based on a shortened link, simply click the link titled, “Give me this URL as a QR code” below the field that includes your shortened URL.
  • Ethical link shortener: If business integrity in your vendors and suppliers is important to you, Is.gd bills itself as an “ethical” link shortener. It cites activities like spam prevention, and carbon neutral operations, as potential selling features for its service.

4. Goo.gl

With the advent of Google+, it’s likely that more people will begin to take a look at Google’s URL shortener, Goo.gl. Here are some of the features that make Goo.gl unique.

  • Integration with your Google Account: Although you can create a shortened link on Goo.gl without an account, if you have a Google Account, you’ll be able to view the statistics generated from the short link. Also, it’s possible that the shortened links you create with Goo.gl are being factored into Google’s overall search engine algorithm.
  • Detailed analytics: Once you have a Google Account, Goo.gl will keep track of all the short links you create in Goo.gl. Access a dashboard similar to Google Analytics by clicking on the link titled “Details” beside the shortened URLs you’ve created.
  • Automatic QR codes: Goo.gl automatically creates a QR code for each link you shorten. Access the QR Code by clicking on the link titled “Details” beside the corresponding shortened URL.
  • Stability: Because you want your shortened links to be permanently accessible, stability of the shortening service is an important factor to consider. According to Google, Goo.gl has enjoyed close to 100 percent uptime since its launch.
  • Security: Goo.gl employs the same automatic spam detection technology found in its Gmail application. In other words, spammers will probably find another platform to use, so Goo.gl links have a high confidence level among the people who click your shortened links.

5 Twitter URL Shorteners With Awesome Features

5. T.co

T.co is Twitter’s embedded, automatic URL shortener. Although it is not available as a standalone application, T.co is still a useful, and potentially powerful, application.

To access T.co, you simply paste a long link right in the status update field of Twitter. A message will appear just below your tweet, telling you that the link will be shortened automatically. The character count you see in your status update includes the length of the shortened URL; exactly 20 characters, or 21 for for https links. Readers of your tweet will see a partial link, and if they hover over it, they’ll see the complete, original long link.

The main benefit of using T.co, for now at least, is that it’s easy. You don’t need to worry about finding a third-party URL shortener like those listed above to send a shortened link. Just paste your long link and Twitter takes care of the rest. Since Twitter now uses T.co automatically, it’s possible that it could discontinue support for other URL shorteners at some point. So, it’s probably not a bad idea to give it a try in the meantime to see if it’s the right choice for you.

These are only a few of the many URL link shorteners available. What link shortener do you use, and why?

[Image Credits: Rebecca Watson, JoshSemans]