Now that the US Presidential race is hotting up, I decided to take a closer look at how the candidates are branding themselves on social media, and in particular Twitter.

Looking at recent tweets from Barack Obama

and Mitt Romney

We can see that they are both using their own branded URL shorteners

In Obama’s case, he is using the short URL OFA.BO – I am assuming this is short for “Obama For America dot Barack Obama”.

The service is run using ShortSwitch – you can see the evidence here.

Mitt is using the more obvious and it is run on Pro – evidence here.

If you want to see how many (or how few) people are clicking on Mitt’s links, just add a + to the end of the full URL – eg and you will see what you can see for any link – the full click stats.

Obama’s team has decided to prevent people looking at the stats on each click via ShortSwitch (and this may have been one of the reasons for choosing this service over Bitly).

Why are the candidates using their own URL shortners and not just relying on twitter’s service or native links?

1. Branding! As I wrote some time ago when I set up my own shortener at, if you want to stand out and provide your own branding in every tweet when you share a link, you need your own short domain name and one of a number of URL services.

I actually use the open source Yourls service and it works really well. I have processed over 700,000 clicks since I enabled it back in 2010.

The advantage of Yourls is that you can choose your own “token” – ie the word or code that comes after the /

Using, there are some restrictions in that if someone else has already used the token that you want, eg then you need to choose another.

2. Statistics! Every campaign manager will want to know what content works, and the more detailed statistics the better. From trying out ShortSwitch, I can see that you can add Google analytics code so that the clicks can be further analyzed on the way through.

If you are a brand, or even a high profile blogger, why not look at setting up your own URL shortener with your own branded domain.  Full details on how to go about this can be found at < and yes, this uses my own custom URL shortener over which I have full control.