Road trip March 2009

With the announcement of Google+ personal URLs, I thought it might be a good time to remind friends that you have always been able to have personalized URLs for Google+ or any social network as long as you had a domain and the ability to do a custom redirect.

The Basics

A redirect is nothing more than a URL that sends a visitor to another URL. Services like bit.ly, Argyle Social, gplus.to, and many others provide this functionality, but it’s something you can do yourself. For example, I own and have the cspenn.com domain. Instead of sharing a list of URLs like this:

  • twitter.com/cspenn
  • facebook.com/christopherspenn
  • linkedin.com/in/cspenn
  • plus.google.com/+cspenn

I instead have a list of URLs that look like this:

Why Redirect?

In the earlier days of social media, redirects were important for services like Twitter that had a 140 character limit (and still do), but many services have taken to building in their own redirects. If you’ve ever shared a URL on Twitter, they automatically turn it into a t.co link. The same is true for Facebook and its fb.me service as well as many other networks.

These days, redirects are more useful for two reasons:

1. They’re easier to remember and keep straight in your head if you’re consistent with them. With my example above, all I have to remember is the first letter of the service.

2. As long as you’re using your own, you control them.

The latter point is actually the most important. When you create your own redirects that are under your control, then you future-proof a portion of your social media. For example, if you rely and share your Facebook personal URL all over the place, what happens when Facebook is no longer king of the hill? Sound silly?

Thousands upon thousands of bands, businesses, and people invested months and millions of dollars in building up their MySpace profiles. Popular bands ditched their websites and other craziness – and all of that was lost when MySpace fell from grace, as Facebook is destined to do. No king rules forever. If your marketing collateral from that time was promoting your MySpace page, it’s worthless now. However, if you had used a redirect like cspenn.com/m, then all you’d need to do is change the URL it points to and you change your presence with the times.

How to Redirect

There are as many ways to redirect as there are ways to access a website. The way I do it is with an .htaccess file and a custom domain, but for most non-technical people, that’s probably the least effective way to do it, and a mistake with punctuation can shut down your website. What I’d recommend for the average person is to use a WordPress plugin like the Redirection plugin, which is somewhat easier.

Whatever approach you choose, you’ll need to buy your own custom short domain. Pick something short and memorable, then point it at your website, configure it using any of the methods above, and you’re off and running. If that’s still technically a hurdle, then you could look at paid services such as Argyle Social that will let you assign the domain to them and provide the redirection in a much more user friendly format. The downside is, of course, you’re still turning over control to a third party entity.

Whatever you choose, let redirection help future-proof your social presence online so that today’s Facebook isn’t tomorrow’s MySpace for you!


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