Monday, July 27, 2009 Adds Short URLs to Capture Social Media Replies

Summary: is adding a URL shortener that will tie social media responses into the regular flow of demand generation and lead management. It’s a small but important step towards making social media a standard business tool.

I saw a quick demonstration today of a new social media feature that will release at the end of September. It generates short URLs that directly connect social media responses with’s standard marketing and sales support features. Here’s the press release.

As I wrote in my February post on Genius, the system creates links to a proxy server that can track Web site visitors within the demand generation system without actually modifying the Web site. (Typically, such tracking requires a landing page built in the demand generation system or a tracking script embedded in the regular site pages.) The Genius link can either point to a landing page created by the salesperson or marketer in Genius or pass the visitor directly to the existing Web page. These links are typically placed in an email created by a salesperson or marketer. The new feature is a desktop widget that creates short versions of such links so they can be added to social media responses such as a Twitter post, Facebook page or blog comment.

This both is and isn’t a big deal. From the technical and end-user standpoint, Genius has simply made it easier to access its existing technology. That’s a very small step. But from the business standpoint, inserting Genius URLs (inevitably if painfully shortened to “GURLs”) means that links in a social media post can now be tracked like other online responses: that is, the visitor can be tied to the original source, assigned a tracking cookie, shown special messages and added to normal lead processing streams. In Genius’s case, this means that visitors can be associated with a company via their IP address, offered an online chat and scored on their activities and form responses, while salespeople can be alerted to important events, find related data or leads in JigSaw or LinkedIn, replay the Web site visit and access the full activity history.

In other words, Genius has taken a major step towards integrating social media with the standard sales and marketing toolkit. Companies must still find effective ways to monitor and respond to social media events. But once that happens, the new Genius feature will let them manage all further interactions with the same tools and processes as leads from any other source. This is major progress, and a capability that I haven’t yet seen from other demand generation or CRM vendors.

That said, there’s a business strategy question of whether this product will give a significant competitive advantage. I suspect other vendors could easily create the short URLs themselves and distribute them on a desktop widget. It would be harder to match's technology for letting salespeople and other non-marketing users add their own landing pages. But I suspect most companies will want social media users to rely on a standard set of company-approved links. So that particular part of's technology may not really matter.

However, I think the real use case is people pointing to ANY page on a company Web site* that happens to answer a specific social media query. In that case, what matters is the ability to create a short URL that activates the demand generation tracking features. This fits perfectly with the proxy server. I don't know how difficult it would be for other vendors.

It's also true that has a general advantage in dealing with non-marketing users because its original product was aimed at salespeople. But other demand generation vendors are already working hard to extend in that direction so I don't know how long's lead will persist.

Whether or not gains a long-term advantage, they certainly deserve credit for being the first (so as I know) to deploy this extremely creative and valuable idea. But the great thing about competition is that if a new feature is really valuable, other vendors will copy it—and then everyone benefits. To me, that’s the best outcome of all.

* only lets users link to pages the user's email domain, or others site for which they have explicit permission. This prevents them from intercepting links meant for someone else.

1 comment:

Felicity Wohltman said...

Thanks for the great post. It’s true that competition usually ends up benefiting the customer because we’re all motivated to keep innovating. Of course, that customer benefit usually comes at the expense of some very tired vendors, but that’s a topic more suited for a health and wellness blog, so I won’t ramble on here. For more information on our take on this announcement, please see our most recent blog post (