How would you like to know who clicks on the links you share?

Today I’m making the first public mention of a new little service I’ve built called whoclicked.it. A simple service designed to tell you who actually clicks on the links you share around the web.

It’s an idea that’s been on my mind for a couple of years now, but was primarily driven by two things:

1. Prior to building whoclicked.it, I used bit.ly for almost all my link sharing on Twitter. With bit.ly, I’ve seen on average that I generate about 15 clicks on anything I share, no matter what time, or what, I share.

On one hand it’s a nice little boost to the ego to know I’ve driven some traffic, but on the other hand it drives me NUTS to see that number each time and have no idea what to do with it. I also always wonder how many (if any) of those clicks are real people vs. twitter bots that just follow every link shared on twitter (I suspect a large portion of those 15 clicks I generally log are actually from bots). I needed to fix this problem.

2. Within knowabout.it internally we track what links people click on from within our emails and system (using the halfbite.com system I built). I built that service to help test and improve our recommendation system and algorithms…but since first building it, I’ve been completely obsessed/hooked on looking at who clicks what links. It’s very addictive and so I’m betting that many ‘normals’ would love to know who actually clicks on the links they share as well. I wanted to share that power and knowledge.

Beyond those two primary motivating factors, and after I started playing with the prototype a bit, I really got hooked on some of the additional things this service opens the opportunities for…specifically:

1. Restricted links. Because people have to log in before getting redirected to the proper long url, you can now control who actually gets to be bounced and who doesn’t. So fan clubs, private groups, and other exclusive services can now publicly share links that only certain people can actually use. Granted, it’s a pretty niche need, but still one that I think is pretty unique and cool…so I’m excited to see if people actually use it and what their feedback on it is.

2. Personal engagement. Again because you know the set of people that actually clicked through a link you shared, you now have an opportunity to have conversations with just that set of people on just that set of data. You can have these conversations outside of the content itself so that the conversation is essentially private for just your group of 'clickers’ (actually I can put in all sorts of levels of privacy options around this engagement if users want – clearly I haven’t completely thought this part through yet).

As I slowly put the MVP for this together nights and weekends of the past month, I’ve also been explaining the concept to a few influential and opinionated friends that always make me think about things in new and interesting ways.

One of the more interesting conversations around the project I had was with Arnold. As I introduced the idea to him, he stopped me and asked me a very awesome question. “Why should I care?”…I thought it was a great way to think about any new project from the user’s point of view…so here’s what my response (more or less) was:

Why should I care?

Because you can’t engage with people, or connect on any personal level, if you don’t know who they are!

My core thesis behind this project is that 99% of the time generating an anonymous click is basically generating a worthless click.

I believe the only time that an anonymous click is valuable is when you are trying to generate volume traffic to content (which you generally only do for the content you generate yourself).

I also believe most (or at least many) link shares are not actually from the content creators themselves, and so they don’t really care about the volume of traffic they generate from the links they share.

So these beliefs caused me to wonder, if most people don’t care about the volume of traffic they generate from sharing links then why do they share links? What do they really care about when they share a link? What do they want to happen?

The answer, at least for me on a personal level, is that I share links to content I find interesting. Links to things that I want my friends - and like-minded people - to know about. Things that *I* would want the people I follow to point out to me. I share links to things that *I* want to discuss further with people.

I think that last point is the kicker - “things that *I* want to discuss further with people.”

In the world before whoclicked.it, the best I could hope for was a user or two that clicked on a link I shared taking the time to actually engage with me via the network I placed the share.

The trouble is, that leaves all the opportunity for engagement in the hands of the clicker.

Since I have no idea who is actually clicking on the links I share (or even if it’s real people clicking)…I have no way to be proactive and engage those people. Instead I’m left shouting questions and opinions to the crowd, hoping someone takes the time to shout back (loud enough that I can hear them).

But now whoclicked.it opens up the 'opportunity for engagement’ for the link sharer.

You can find out when real people click on your links, and then you can reach out to those real people to engage with them on a personal level around the shared topic interest.

Sure you might get lower click thru counts on each of your shares, but the ones you do get will be of MUCH higher value because you’ll have the opportunity to engage with the set of users that are actually paying attention to you and have at least a little interest in a shared topic!

So…stop losing out on all those opportunities for personal engagement…check out http://whoclicked.it and then let me know what you think!

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for digdownlabs.com and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.

If you have comments, thoughts, or want to respond to something you see here I would encourage you to respond via a post on your own blog (and then let me know about the link via one of the routes mentioned above).