US State Department : Own-brand URLs

The US government's foreign affairs website uses its own short form URLs to maintain brand identity on social media.

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The feature

On most pages within the US State Department’s website, there is a social media menu in the upper right below the main navigation bar. ‘Stay Connected with’ includes clickable circular icons pointing towards eight social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr and others. Below this are links to a mobile site, a videos page and ways to stay in touch via RSS and e-mail.

Underneath these links is a ‘Short URL’ for cutting and pasting when sharing the content on social media sites. We found short URLs throughout the site, on descriptive or policy-related pages (eg, a description of the START nuclear treaty, the Department’s mission statement, US energy security policy and similar). All of the short URLs have the same prefix – (which is also the URL of a do-it-yourself short-URL maker for US government employees) – followed by a unique 4-digit signature.

The takeaway

URL shorteners (eg, ‘tinyurl’) are usually anonymous, and can be a missed branding opportunity for organisations if content is widely shared across social media. Own-branded short-form URLs allow the US State Department (and other US government sites that use them) to put their brand stamp on popular links, an inexpensive and easy-to-implement idea that could be adapted for corporate brands with content frequently posted and reposted on Twitter, Tumblr, Google, etc.
First published 22 October, 2014
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