RRE Ventures-Backed Bitly Offers Reputation Monitoring for Professional Users, Plans More Services

The folks at New York’s bitly want to be known for more than shortened links. So the company, funded by investors such as RRE Ventures and AOL Ventures, started a beta trial early this month for a service that monitors the reputations of its enterprise customers. Though it is best-known for those shortened and shared links, bitly is now putting the data behind that service to work in new ways—including helping business track how they are trending in social arenas.

Clearly bitly could not keep growing based on just shortening Web links, especially now that Twitter is handling that task in-house for tweets and, as of Oct. 10, wrapping all links with its own URL. Peter Stern, bitly’s CEO, says the new reputation-monitoring system sends e-mail alerts to his company’s enterprise customers when topics and keywords they have selected are generating buzz in the social media space. When links that relate to the chosen topics are shared via Twitter or Facebook, bitly notifies its customer if there is a significant trending change.

The technology can also track news clips, for example, that are copied and pasted into e-mails and then shared. “We can prioritize and rank that content based on how many people are engaging with it,” Stern says. “We know the correlations between the content you are clicking on and can measure relevancy.” Bitly’s other services include providing custom short links used by content publishers such as Foursquare, Pepsi, and the New York Post.

Now bitly is flexing is muscles to tackle new services. “The idea behind bitly has always been to provide a great engine for social sharing and analytics,” says Stern, who joined the company in May. He previously co-founded Zenbe, which sold its e-mail product to Facebook last November. He also co-founded online financial brokerage Datek Online, which was acquired by TD Ameritrade in 2002. Bitly grew again in August when it acquired Twitterfeed, which lets users automatically tweet new blog posts from RSS feeds.

Stern says bitly, over the course of more than one year, developed its own search engine that generates results based on cross-platform social engagement—meaning it displays search results based on link sharing and link clicks. Based on that technology, bitly launched its reputation-monitoring platform on Oct. 13. Users can track changes associated with specific content to identify, in real time, when content goes viral.

Currently only bitly users with enterprise accounts are participating in the reputation-monitoring beta test. Those customers include e-commerce and media companies of various sizes, Stern says, but he would not disclose names. After users receive e-mail alerts from the reputation monitoring system, they can view an online dashboard with graphs and other data that show the social engagement associated with the topic.

Stern says bitly’s technology produces these results faster than other search engines, which typically use Web crawling software. He also says the service appeals to content publishers and other companies that do not want to waste time trying to track how they are trending among social forums. “Our search is based purely on engagement patterns, on people clicking on content on Twitter or Facebook,” Stern says.

Bitly, founded in 2008, is also backed by Betaworks, O’Reilly Alpha Tech Ventures, Social Leverage, SV Angel, Founders Fund, The Accelerator Group, Jeff Clavier and SoftTech VC, David Shen Ventures, Ron Conway, Peter Hershberg, Chris Sacca, Mitchell Kapor, Joshua Stylman, and Howard Lindzon.

The data behind link sharing may not be not terribly sexy to the average person. But bitly has plans to develop new services for the general masses, in addition to professional users. “We are working on consumer-oriented products around social sharing,” says Stern, adding that it’s too early to disclose details. “The data we have can be hugely impactful to anybody who is trying to share content digitally.”

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