Bitly Rolls Out Reputation-Monitoring Tool and Social-Search Product

The Field of Companies Monitoring Social Media Gets a Little More Crowded

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Bitly, the New York City startup best known for its URL shortening service, is today releasing a real-time, reputation-monitoring tool to help brands track trending news about them and sentiment around social-media mentions. The company is also releasing a search product into private beta.

Matt LeMay, platform manager at Bitly, first hinted at the new products with a short demo at the monthly NY Tech Meetup in New York City earlier this week. In the demo, Mr. LeMay showed a dashboard that included a chart tracking the sentiment of "Abercrombie" over a period of time. The chart showed a peak in positive sentiment in mid-August, along with links to related content that had gone viral during the time. The reason for the mid-August peak? News stories about the company's announcement that it would pay The Situation from MTV 's "Jersey Shore" to stop wearing its clothing on the show.

With the reputation-monitoring tool, Bitly enters an already crowded field. But the 3-year-old company's advantage is that it's sitting on a trove of social-sharing data thanks to its position as one of the most popular URL shorteners. Andrew Cohen, Bitly's general manager, says that Bitly shortens 80 million URLs a day and tracks 8 billion clicks a month.

"[Sentiment analysis] is a very hard problem until you get to scale," Mr. Cohen said.

The core of the reputation-monitoring product is a system that sends out alerts when there is a swing in sentiment or number of social-media mentions around a selected keyword or brand name.

"It's meant to be a smoke detector," Mr. Cohen said. "You may not hear from it very often, but when you do, it's important."

"There are plenty of great clipping services that tell you what incredibly damaging thing was said yesterday on Facebook," he added. "That's very different from our product. Amid all the noise out there, our product gives you a ranked list of stories and says, here's the thing that will go viral over the next 24 or 48 hours. That's what you should be looking at as a brand. We want to tell you about this before it ends up on the front page of CNN."

Earlier this week, Mr. LeMay also gave a sneak peek of the company's new social-search tool meant to fill in the holes of traditional search engines.

"What we've built is a conversation search," Mr. Cohen said. "For any given topic, it returns the most viral and engaging content being shared on social media. And we're seeing breaking news -- protest videos from Iran and Tunisia, corporate controversies, political scoops -- being shared on Bitly long before it is pointed to by major news organizations or indexed by large search engines."

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