Almost every link you see in Twitter is necessarilly shortened. When I use a desktop client like Hootsuite I get ow.ly links; when I retweet out of Typepad and it defaults to bit.ly; when writing in Twitter I manually run a link through qurl.com or one of the other shorteners. But increasingly I see tech blogs and mainstream media sites using their own branded shorteners - Techcrunch uses tcrn.ch, Businessinsider uses read.bi, NYU's Jay Rosen has a branded shortener at jr.ly. So I wondered how difficult and expensive it would be to do the same, without any real programming knowledge.
The answer in both cases is "not very". It's about twenty minutes work spread over a few days, and it costs less than $100. Here, by way of example, is a custom shortened URL for my last post http://virt.ec/ugs.
To build it took two things. One, finding and buying a suitable, short URL (in this case virt.ec, an Ecuadorian TLD) that I found via 101domains.com. URL costs vary but a free one that fits your brand should still be fairly easy to find for a few dollars.
Two, pointing it at a white-label URL shortener. I used Tinyarro.ws, which cost me $49 for the year and has excellent, rapid support and Just Works. There's instructions on how to turn your URL into a shortener here.
That's it. I'm not a programmer. Anyone can do it.