Update 8.11.09: Tr.im appears to be up and running again, but the fragility of the free offering is unchanged. The consensus is with this source and other free sources you get what you pay for and you should only invest the time you are willing to lose.
My url shortening service of choice was tr.im. When I logged in this morning to the service I found this message:
“tr.im is now in the process of discontinuing service, effective immediately. Statistics can no longer be considered reliable, or reliably available going forward. However, all tr.im links will continue to redirect, and will do so until at least December 31, 2009. Your tweets with tr.im URLs in them will not be affected.” Read more.
I preferred tr.im to others due to the readily available active statistics identifying bots separately from active users. While the statistics were interesting they were never a primary metric due to the quantitative nature of my reporting; however, they did provide a quick reference to what was resonating with followers. This gave me cause to reflect on other free services and their potential impact on businesses that have become dependent on them.
While using free resources is a common business practice, since we are all trying to be good stewards, sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. The most painful display I’ve seen recently was courtesy of Wendy Williams “The Wendy Williams Show” trying to use Skype on her show (This link of the offense provided courtesy of The Soup on E!) In fairness to Skype they clearly state “Skype is not a replacement for your ordinary telephone and can’t be used for emergency calling.” While this example was no emergency it is a clear demonstration of the adage, “you get what you pay for.”
Unfortunately, every public relations professional using any kind of free resource as part of your PR effectiveness efforts should also include the disclaimer: “Statistics can no longer be considered reliable or reliably available going forward.” Or perhaps this variation of Skype’s disclaimer “In the event of a crisis we may be out of luck.”
You see when you rely on free resources you give up the service. There is no obligation to qualify numbers, sources or timing to you. So while you may be trying to establish a benchmark, your data is always in danger of being compromised. To ensure your own relevance and ability to prove your efforts, you need to make the case to invest in tried-and-true resources to solidify your case.
I know my BurrellesLuce colleagues and I would love to get your feedback on other URL shortening services. I would especially like to hear from any of you and how you’ve convinced your C-Suite to invest in proper services versus free resources.