How to lose millions of clicks (and album pre-sales)

Justin Timberlake is promoting his new album.  He has 24.5 million followers on Twitter, which provides a tremendous marketing opportunity.

He mentions the album on Twitter, and includes the link to the landing page (which lets you pre-order the album from Target):

Why wait? #The2020Experience continues. Right now! Ladies & Gents, roll your
windows down & play it loud!  #TNKids

Album link - Target

People like it, and they begin retweeting it, effectively spreading the message to their respective audiences – which, if you were to look at their combined numbers, is also in the millions.

So far so good.

But, there’s a problem.  His original post was 140 characters, which is the maximum size Twitter allows.  Twitter would shorten the  link to “”, and that would provide a few extra spaces, but still – it’s too long.

When his fans started retweeting the message, they added a few characters of their own (e.g. “RT “).  Some went even further – they also included his name on the retweet (“@jtimberlake”) – which is 12 more characters, so now the message looks like this:

RT @jtimberlake: Why wait? #The2020Experience continues. Right now! Ladies & Gents, roll your
windows down & play it loud!…

Note that not only one of his original hashtags is gone (#TNKids), but the previously shortened link to the album is now cut off as well!  And that link is no longer valid:

broken link

As you can see from the attached report below, 4 out of 5 of his most retweeted messages now contain links that don’t work:

Top Retweets

The worst part is, when a link is truncated like that, the marketing team behind the campaign wouldn’t even be aware of the problem – as the traffic wouldn’t be reflected in any standard analytics reports.  Besides, while you can edit (delete and recreate) your own Tweet, you can’t do that for other people – once they start editing/retweeting – it’s their message now.  And in this case, all these thousands and thousands of messages contain a broken link.

Your existing social media tracking tools are simply not enough.  Once people start altering messages (by adding “RT”, “@…”, various remarks), most popular tools can no longer track them.


  1. keep your tweets short (e.g. 110..120 characters instead of 140 – to allow for insertion of short remarks, etc)
  2. keep significant information (meaningful tags, links) towards the front – which makes them less likely to be cut off
  3. use smart data discovery tools, like iTrend‘s

Technologist, parallel entrepreneur. Interests: travel, photography, big data, analytics, predictive modeling.

Posted in Analysis, marketing, Technology, Tracking Social Events

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