An interesting discovery came to light this week that may give all those self-proclaimed social media gurus pause. According to new research conducted by URL-shortening service bitly, the average shelf life of a social media post is about about three hours. I originally spotted this tidbit in a repost from HubSpot, which offered its own insights:
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….
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.
So what does this mean for marketers? HubSpot’s conclusion is that you need better quality content to promote engagement. That’s only part of the equation.
I think of successful social media engagement as encompassing the three C’s: Content, Conversion, Community. The quality of the content drives conversion to build a following. It’s no surprise that social media content is short-lived. That’s the idea, and I often counsel my clients that social media content is highly perishable, so while it is important to think before you post, agonizing over the perfect tweet or a Pulitzer-worthy blog post can run counter to the purpose of social media – to provide easily digestible sound bites that add to the online conversation while promoting your perspective, i.e. your brand. The trick is to give those sound bites enough impact to promote resonance.
So with this new revelation from the bitly research, marketers need to rethink their online activity in light of the three C’s:
1. Content – The quality of the material does promote interest and engagement, so be sure you post quality information in order to gain the trust of your audience and give them something they can share with their own social media followers.
2. Conversion – Whenever possible, give followers an ongoing reason to engage. If your material is consistently informative or entertaining, or particularly poignant about a specific topic, you will be able to convert readers into followers. Which leads to the third “C.”
3. Community – If you can build an audience then they will share the wealth, and as a byproduct promote your brand. You want to build a loyal following who is willing to engage with you and spread the word.
So even though your specific social media efforts have a relatively short half-life, the lasting impact should be felt through resonance. Whatever stone you choose to throw into the social media pond should produce ripples that will be felt long after the original post has been archived.
And, of course, there are more tangible benefits, such as searchability. Everything posted on the web is discoverable, and even when the immediate echoes of a social media post fade away, that original content is still there to be rediscovered either by search or happenstance. The Internet has a long memory, and social media just feeds the discoverable archive, so even if the shelf-life of a post is an average of a few hours, that post still becomes part of the discoverable web, so you never know when some Internet archaeologist will uncover you post for some future purpose.