There have been various studies suggesting that if someone doesn’t see a tweet or a Facebook post within a few hours, they’ll never see it at all. Now link shortening service Bit.ly is out with another. After three hours, Bit.ly has found, links have sent about all the traffic they’re going to send. So start thinking about doing “second chance” tweets, as I call them.
The Half-Life Of A Link
In particular, Bit.ly has measured what it calls the “half-life” of a socially-shared link. By half-life, it means the point in which a link has received half the clicks it will ever get. From the company’s blog post:
We can evaluate the persistence of the link by calculating what we’re calling the half life: the amount of time at which this link will receive half of the clicks it will ever receive after it’s reached its peak.
Personally, I find this a bit confusing. The link will still continue to generate some additional clicks beyond this period, substantial amounts, even. It’s just that the link — after the half-life period — is headed to rapid decline. The real near zero point will be a bit longer than the half-life.
Three Hours To Decline
Still, terminology aside, the half-life concept is useful in stressing how quickly attention shifts away from things that have been shared. Bit.ly found measured the half-life of links on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Here’s the chart:
And the numbers:
- Twitter: 2.8 hours
- Facebook: 3.2 hours
- YouTube: 7.4 hours
In short, after three hours, links shared on the two major social networks — Twitter and Facebook — are headed to obscurity. However, YouTube links last a bit longer. It’s unclear what Bit.ly means here, but I think it’s saying that a YouTube link that’s shared on Twitter or Facebook will attract attention longer than other types of links shared on them. I’m checking on this.
Postscript: Heard back, these are indeed shortened URLs that get shared on YouTube such as in comments or descriptions there.
Second Chance Tweets
Here on Search Engine Land, we’ve long tapped into the decline of attention by doing what we call “second chance tweets.” On our @sengineland Twitter account, we tweet a story as soon as it’s posted. However, many of our Twitter followers might easily miss this, if they’re not online, busy and so on. That’s why we schedule a “second chance” tweet for most major stories to go out a few hours after they originally get tweeted.
Typically, we receive about 50% more traffic from Twitter from our second chance tweets as from the original ones. In other words, by simply tweeting a story again, some hours after the “half-life” of the original tweet has expired, we pick up 50% of the traffic that the original tweet generated.
In fact, I was coincidentally looking at some of our stats earlier today. In one case, a second chance tweet that we did generated substantially more traffic than the original tweet. That’s not normal, but it highlights how if you assume all your followers have seen your original tweet, you’re probably making the wrong assumption.
Of course, no one wants to have the same tweet shoved at them over and over again. We’ve been deliberate and careful in how we do things; we’ve had less than 10 complaints that I can recall over the half-year that we’ve been doing this. So, I figure we’re doing it OK.
Bottom line: Tweet and tweet again. In moderation. And turn that half-life into an extended life.
Postscript: Some tools I should have mentioned, which I’ll also explain more in a future post. For our second chance tweets, we use SocialFlow, which is a pretty awesome tool, though it’s in a closed beta. It makes it very easy to reuse what you’ve posted before. We also use CoTweet in some cases, which is another great tool. HootSuite is also another good tool that can help with scheduling, that I’ve used from time to time personally.