Over the last three days I spent a lot of time explaining how to use the Google Analytics UTM variable tracking to monitor the success rate of the links you share to the various social networks. The method I explained does require a bit of time to implement and then the links you share will become very long and ugly.
What I didn't explain yet is that sometimes those long and ugly shared links (URLs) can break as you use them, or when other people re-share them. Emails are notorious for breaking long website links, which is why you will often times see caveats that say "if this link is not clickable please copy the whole URL into your web browser."
Twitter tries to manage long URLs and (most of the time) will automatically shrink them through a URLs shortening process. That "shortening process" replaces a very long website address with a much shorter, easier to chare domain name and website address that usually less than 25 characters long. The shortened links that Twitter creates now start out with http://t.co, which is why you will sometimes see "t.co" listed as a referrer in your Google Analytics.
If you're going to try all the UTM tracking I explained it's a good idea to shorten your URLs before sharing them because it prevents the potential for breaking all the UTM extra variables.
There are easy ways, and hard ways to shorten your long website addresses. There are tools available through software programs, websites, and even web browser extensions that will automatically shorten the URLs for you. Shortening a URL shouldn't be a hard process; you just have to find the right tool to do it for you.
URL shortening was invented in 2000 and was in widespread use by 2005. Since then, according to Wikipedia there have been more than 1000 URL shortening companies, and many have gone out of business because. I mention this because it's important to choose the right tool and the right company for your URL shortening so they will always work, or at least they will work for as long as you need them to.
To guarantee that your URL shortened links, always work you would have to use URL shortening software on your own website, but even that Wikipedia article says it's very uncommon to do it yourself. Otherwise, my recommendation is to use a service from a company that is profitable instead of a free service.
Here are a few recommendations:
http://tinyURL.com - The original URL shortener. They make money through advertising.
http://bit.ly - Has a paid Pro level
http://goo.gl - Backed by Google and it will probably be around for as long as Google is around.
http://ow.ly - Part of Hootsuite's free service but they also have a paid revenue model.
For my own purposes I use bit.ly and ow.ly for most of the website addresses I share for my Daily Nuggets. I also use the URL shortner built into all of my websites that use the Junior CMS to shorten URLs and convert them into QR Codes.
Bit.ly is a very popular service that many software programs can directly connect to. I have browser extensions that allow me to shorten a website address while I'm reading the page and then share that shortened bit.ly address to Facebook or Twitter.
When I'm using the Hootsuite program I will use their built in ow.ly shortener before scheduling my posts to the social networks.
In conclusion, if you casually share links to social networks then you probably don't care about UTM tracking codes or shortening your links. There may come a time when you want to turn that casual online socializing into a real marketing method, and when that happens you will need a quick way to share content, shorten links, and track them. Make sure the tool you use is easy and that it connects to a reputable URL shortening service.