How to Spy on People’s Twitter Clicks in Real Time (or Monitor Your Own)

  • May 27, 2010 by Corbett Barr
  • 12 Comments

Spy on Twitter Clicks in Real Time

Ever wonder when and how often people click on links you share with your Twitter followers? There’s an easy way to find out, and I’m going to show you here. Just be warned, it can be addictive.

From time-to-time, it can be useful to know the popularity of a link you share in Twitter. Maybe you want to know what time of day is best for sharing your blog posts. Maybe you want to test out a couple of versions of headlines really quickly. Or maybe you’re just curious about how many people really pay attention to a single tweet.

In any case, there is a really easy way to monitor how many clicks a particular link gets in real time. I’ll have you monitoring your own links (or spying on other people’s) in just a couple of minutes.

How to Watch Your Clicks

For this exercise, we’re going to focus on the link shortener known as bit.ly. Bit.ly is one of the most popular link shorteners out there, and it happens to have excellent built-in analytics capabilities. If you use a Twitter desktop client like TweetDeck, there’s a good chance bit.ly is built in.

If bit.ly isn’t the automatic URL shortener in your software, don’t worry. You can always go to bit.ly directly (no account required) and shorten your links manually. This will work either way.

Step 1: Shorten a link with bit.ly.

Step 2: Share your link on Twitter, or anywhere really. This trick works for any platform you might share your link on. Email, Facebook, tacking flyers to a telephone pole, whatever you want to monitor.

Step 3: Take your link, something like “http://bit.ly/XYZ123″ and add a plus sign (+) to the end of the link, with no spaces. Now type that into your browser’s address bar.

You’ll get a screen like this:

Link Clicks from Twitter in Real Time!

Notice down near the graph that there are different time periods you can monitor. Click on “Now” to see the clicks roll in in real time.

This screenshot is from a link I just posted to Twitter. The graph shows that 10 people clicked on it over the past 10 minutes or so.

Pretty cool, right?

Now for the adventurous who have been curious about how much traffic a really big Twitter personality can drive…

How to Spy on Other People’s Clicks

Let’s do a little digging. I noticed that a few minutes before I posted my tweet from the screenshot above that Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) also posted a bit.ly link. Gary has over 850,000 Twitter followers as I write this.

When I pulled up the bit.ly real-time stats for Garyvee’s link, this is what I found:

Clicks from @garyvee's tweet

Sorry for the tiny graphic. If you can’t quite read it, that says 738 clicks in 45 minutes, at 2 in the afternoon on a Wednesday!

How’s that for internet celebrity power? Wouldn’t you like to be able to drive 700+ people to a link at your will by just typing 140 characters or less? Just imagine how many clicks Gary gets during prime clicking hours.

A Fun Experiment to Try

Here’s another one you can try. You know all those people on Twitter who have like 50k or more followers, but seem to have gotten them disingenuously?

Pull up one of their links and compare the clicks-to-followers ratio against your own, or against an internet rockstar. I’ll bet you’ll find that acquiring a bunch of followers by brute force doesn’t necessarily pay off in the clicks department.

A Word of Warning

I mentioned earlier that this can be an addictive thing to try. We already talked earlier this week about getting the most out of your social media time. This exercise could be useful, or it could end up being a time sink. How you use it is up to you. May the force be with you, or whatever.

Also, I know this works on bit.ly like in the example, and I’m guessing some other URL shorteners also have analytics functionality built-in, but I haven’t done the full investigation. The cool thing about bit.ly is that you don’t have to have an account with them.

Enjoy your click spying, I mean monitoring. Let me know what you find out in the comments!

photo by practicalowl

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Moon Hussain May 27, 2010 at 6:37 am

Corbett, this might be all kinds of awesome and bad wrapped up in one! You know what I have to do now…

Corbett Barr May 27, 2010 at 9:23 am

Cool, Moon. Have fun. This might be a simple trick that people know already, but I figured if you didn’t know it would be useful.

Mars Dorian May 27, 2010 at 9:30 am

Jeez, Corbett, and I thought you were going to mention Tweetdeck.
Man, this trick is awe-some, but honestly, as soon as I use it, I’ll end up doing it all day, like you said.

Going to try it at least once though. Only this once…

Corbett Barr May 27, 2010 at 10:15 am

May the force be with you. Just use it for good, not evil ;)

Stella May 27, 2010 at 10:29 am

I didn’t know about this! Thanks for the info.

Sherryl Perry May 29, 2010 at 9:55 am

Excellent tip. Thank you. Looks like I’ll need to use bit.ly to shorten all my URLs from now on. I tried this tip on some of my previous tweets where I used tiny.cc to create the shortened link and it doesn’t work.

Corbett Barr June 1, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Haven’t used tiny.cc, thanks for the info. There are so many URL shorteners out there now it’s hard to keep track.

Lisa Zahran May 31, 2010 at 2:39 am

Thanks for the useful tip! Scary how addictive it can get tho… :P

Vishal Sanjay May 31, 2010 at 5:46 am

As usual a very resourceful post, actual I have already used bit.ly, and sadly their analytics is not very accurate. On the first day when I used it I was overjoyed to see the number of clicks my tweet had received, but when I saw my analytics it was less than half. I don’t know if this is a problem with my analytics or with my site, just awaiting your reply.

Corbett Barr June 1, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Hi Vishal, it’s hard to say where the problem lies. Site analytics aren’t always 100% accurate because they use a client-side script to measure traffic. It also might not measure some bounced visits. I wouldn’t worry too much about the exact numbers, this exercise is useful more from a comparison point of view.

Ash June 1, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Oh hell. I’m in trouble.

Look at you rounding up all sorts of useful information! Well-done! This is good stuff.

Jonha August 18, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Haha! Tried it during a competition as I was literally spying on my competitors and it was fun thing to do. I also learned who’s the Twitterer behind a corporate account ;)

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