The Umpf blog has been a bit neglected of late (setting up a new agency can be time consuming) and I’ve been meaning to write something interesting for a while. So just when I was looking for an excuse, Nike served one up. Swoosh.
This week, their football Tweets @NikeFootball (5,000+ Followers) started using a bit.ly vanity URL http://bit.ly/writehistorylive. As you’ll see it takes you to an app on their Facebook Fan page (almost a third of a million fans).
If you’re new to URL shorteners such as bit.ly and is.gd (and there are hundreds of services out there), they take a long URL like http://www.facebook.com/nikefootball?v=app_10442206389&ref=ts (which eats up 61 of your 140-chracter Tweet) and shortens it to something like http://bit.ly/9HQmpy (20 characters). Both direct users to exactly the same place.
So rather than use a short bit.ly link, typically http://bit.ly/ [and then a randomly allocated set of six alphanumeric characters with letters in upper and lower case], Nike has gone for a vanity title ‘writehistorylive’ to increase social media campaign recognition.
At the time of writing they’d had more than 6,500 clicks on their bit.ly vanity URL. But see what happens when you click http://bit.ly/Writehistorylive or http://bit.ly/WriteHistoryLive. The URL is subtly different – you probably wouldn’t even notice if it wasn’t pointed out – but the end result is, of course, not a Nike-endorsed site. And imagine if there was some darker skulduggery eg http://bit.ly/writehistoryLive.
We’ve been advising clients recently on shortened vanity URLs. One of our recommendations is, if you’re going to use a shortened vanity URL – as opposed to the shortened URL you’re allocated – ensure you secure any obvious alternative spellings, and the basic variations on capital letters.
Clearly, in Nike’s case there are millions of permutations in the use of upper and lower case with a long phrase such as writehistorylive (wRiTEhistorylive, WRITEhistoryliveE, etc etc ), but at least go for the basics: ALLCAPS, CapOnEachNewWord, alllowercase, Capfirstletter.
Of course, the counter argument is that the vanity shortened URL is typically only ever a social media link, so the reader will click straight through and, hence, there’s no need to worry. But if a phrase is central to a campaign – as I would argue writehistorylive is (why create it in the first place?) – then there’s a credible argument to say the URL could be passed on verbally.
It’s probably only a matter of time before we see an intellectual property court case sparked by a shortened vanity URL.
NB: Neither bit.ly, is.gd, Nike (clearly!) nor Adidas are clients of Umpf and all example shortened vanity URLs have been created to demonstrate a point rather than to pass off a brand or marketing campaign.