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Sharing lifespan is just three hours

By Alistair Harris

Young male with laptop

New research from shortened URL provider Bitly has discovered most socially-shared content updates have a lifespan of just three hours.

The study found that whenever people share a link on Facebook or Twitter, it has exhausted most of its traffic within just 180 minutes.

So, if you post a link at, say, 9am in the morning, it’s highly likely that by 12pm, it won’t be seen by people: or, if it is, they won’t follow the link.

The figures underline the instantaneous nature of social media marketing, which can huge spikes in interest in links which then disappears.

Bitly has been tracking how people interact with shared links, and concluded that after three hours, a shared link will have enjoyed all the traffic it is ever going to get.

Search Engine Land, reporting Bitly’s findings, has suggested using “second chance” tweets or updates to ensure important information isn’t lost.

There are clear netiquette guidelines for content sharing: and the overwhelming advice is not to barrage followers or fans with too many posts. Not only do these become as bad as spam, but they often mean you are devaluing your content.

Instead, SEL has suggested using sparse “second chance” tweets to generate more traffic on top of the original three-hour window.

Bitly’s blog recorded the results of its study. It first looked at a few posts in isolation, finding that they gained an initial peak of clicks before tailing off into obscurity.

Bitly tried to ascertain the “half life” of these links – the point of the peak, after which, traffic tails off. Even after a peak, there can still be substantial traffic, however, the numbers dwindle over a three-hour period.

After reporting back on the three-hour pattern being observed on one or two isolated stories, the Bitly blog explains: “We looked at the half life of 1,000 popular Bitly links and the results were surprisingly similar. The mean half life of a link on Twitter is 2.8 hours, on Facebook it’s 3.2 hours and via ‘direct’ sources (like email or IM clients) it’s 3.4 hours. So you can expect, on average, an extra 24 minutes of attention if you post on Facebook than if you post on Twitter.”

The best way to counteract the fleeting life of a link is to pick the best time to re-link it: providing those who may have missed your original post, either through being away from their profiles, or because it was buried under a day of updates from other sources, you can generate more traffic. SEL tested this and found re-posting generated around 50% more traffic – and very few complaints.

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