Forget the metaverse – these days the hottest online real estate is the social media bio. Over the past few years, a roster of ‘link in bio’ businesses – including Linktree, Linkfire, Linkpop, Koji and Beacons – have popped up to serve the growing creator economy, which is always on the lookout for easy ways to capture audiences used to chatting, searching, shopping and streaming through a single thumb tap.

These businesses take the humble URL and turn it into a simple but effective landing page for wherever people want to direct their followers and, increasingly, they're able to monetize that influence – this includes everything from a link to a song on Spotify to an account on subscription platform Patreon. Businesses typically make money by charging for data analytics and premium add-ons. It's a simple concept, but it's indicative of a bigger shift in the navigation and presentation of online spaces that goes beyond influencers – last year, Linktree's small-business market grew 327%.

That said, it's a crowded space with low barriers to entry, which means that companies need to anticipate how to serve these changing audiences if they want to stay afloat. Already the consolidation has begun, with marketing platform Mavrck buying Later, the parent company of We caught up with Alex Zaccaria, CEO and co-founder of Linktree, which has just raised $110 million (at a $1.3 billion valuation), about what small businesses want from their digital spaces.

Simplicity rules

From having a viral presence on TikTok to building virtual storefronts in the metaverse and launching non-fungible tokens (NFTs), small businesses can feel like they need to go big with their digital presence in order to succeed. However, Alex found that brands tend to use Linktree for the basics: contact details, opening hours and online retail integration (such as Shopify). While it's simple, he's found that they get more engagement this way than through a traditional website. 

‘We want to reduce the cognitive load, which hyper-focuses [customers] on a particular action,’ he says. ‘There's nothing on Linktree that isn't an action, and that drives conversion for our users.’

Analytics are everything 

A website isn't just a navigation tool – it's a way to access information about who your customers are and how they interact with a space. However, small businesses may not have the budget for a marketing employee nor the knowledge to interpret a suite of analytics (nor the time to understand metrics in depth). Alex says that link-in-bio sites fill this gap as a key part of a small business' or creator's marketing stack – premium features on these sites will typically provide location data, click-through rates and other analytics, as well as easy-to-read dashboards and advice on turning that data into action.

‘We can make recommendations to users based on data to better improve their conversions, or what background color they should be using or apps they should be connecting to,’ he says.

Ownership is key

For an individual creator or a small business, discovery is vital. But platform algorithms have made this a bigger challenge – websites can get buried in search results or be penalized if they don't meet often opaque standards set by social media sites. Going forward, Alex sees brands really owning their digital presence, moving away from trying to game the algorithms and instead focusing on finding a loyal audience and offering the easiest route to conversion.

‘The way creators use Linktree is a visual representation of who they are, and not a representation of what an algorithm thinks they want their audience to know,’ he says.

A version of this article was published in the Courier Weekly newsletter. For more useful stories, tips, tricks and simply good advice, sign up here.

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