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13

September

2011

Let Your Links Live Long and Prosper :

Say you want to share something – a link back to your site, a product or just something you think others will find valuable – where you post will matter for how long it will be seen. Borrowing a scientific term, “half life,” folks at Bit.ly – a link-shortening service – studied 1,000 popular Bit.ly links that were shared across Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and through email. The half life of each link was recorded (half life is the amount of time at which a link receives half of the clicks it will ever receive after it reached its peak).

Links that tend to be more “breaking” have a shorter half life, as they become irrelevant more quickly. However, links to funny videos, such as a cute hiccupping cat or wedding dance video, stick around a bit longer.

But content isn’t the only big predictor for a link’s half life. Where these links get shared matters significantly. Between Facebook and Twitter, the same link lasts about 24 minutes longer on Facebook than on Twitter. However, it doesn’t mean that link is seen by more people. In fact, links on Twitter are likely to be shared further and seen by more people than when shared on Facebook. Additionally, the same link that is shared through email or instant messaging remains active slightly longer than on Facebook.

YouTube, interestingly, shows an entirely different clicking pattern. The overall half life of links on Facebook, Twitter and email/instant messaging is about three hours. On YouTube the average half life of a link is 7.4 hours – over twice the length of any of the other sharing services.

Bit.ly doesn’t say much about the value of these metrics other than the best way to share something you want people to see quickly is through Twitter, but the fact is that links on YouTube last over twice as long, and couple that with the fact that over 3 billion videos are viewed on YouTube each day (according to YouTube) and 100 million people take social action on YouTube each week (likes, shares, comments), putting a link or two on YouTube each week may be a worthy investment in one’s time.