Shelf Life of Social Media Links Only 3 Hours [Data]

Pamela Vaughan
Pamela Vaughan



shelf lifeWhen it comes to link sharing in social media, it turns out it's not about where you share it -- it's about what you share. New research from URL shortening service bitly focuses on how long a link is "alive” before people stop engaging with it and whether it matters what kind of content it is or where it was shared. 

By calculating what bitly is calling the link's 'half life' (the time it takes a link to receive half the clicks it will ever receive after it’s reached its peak), bitly evaluated the persistence of 1,000 popular bitly links, and found some strikingly similar results.

Half Life Research Results

  • The mean half life of a link on Twitter is 2.8 hours.
  • The mean half life of a link on Facebook is 3.2 hours.
  • The mean half life of a link via ‘direct’ sources such as email or instant messaging clients is 3.4 hours.
  • The mean half life of a link on YouTube is 7.4 hours.

halflife density2 resized 600In a nutshell, bitly's research reveals that generally, links shared on Facebook, Twitter, and via direct sources like email or instant message have a shelf life of about 3 hours. This excludes YouTube, where people remain interested in links for more than twice that -- 7 hours! And while you can expect that the majority of links will only remain interesting for less than 2 hours, others can generate a lot more interaction and clicks, lasting for more than 11 hours.

From this, bitly concludes that when it comes to the lifespan of a link (if you exclude YouTube from the equation), it's not where the link is shared that matters; instead, it's more important what the link shares (the content) that has the potential to attract more clicks and engagement.

Marketing Takeaway

Bitly's research indicates that when it comes to promoting content in social media, marketers need to focus mostly on quality. Whether a link makes it in social media depends on the content it points to, so marketers should put the majority of their efforts into creating remarkable content that has the potential to make an impact. It's not enough to just post any links to Facebook and Twitter. Rather, marketers need to make sure that the content they link to is high in quality and valuable to its audience in order to reap the maximum benefits of social media marketing.

When it comes to content creation, are you placing enough emphasis on quality?

Photo Credit: Alex Barth

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