Why “Second Chance” Tweets Matter: After 3 Hours, Few Care About Socially Shared Links

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.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Features: Analysis | Social Media Marketing | Stats: General | Top News

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://ifdebug.com Alistair Lattimore

    Danny,

    When you schedule your second chance tweet, out of interest do you use the same shortened URL to help you easily measure the reach and impact of that link/content combination?

    Al.

  • kmids

    do you do your tweets at specific times a day? like one at 10am and one at 5pm or something like that?

  • Joel

    The rapid decline in the “life” of a link simply means that the post has achieved maximum effective reach among the audience for this poster. If the poster were to expand his/her audience, then new views will occur.

    A tweet from a poster with an audience of 100 followers will decline rapidly as mos of the 100 tune in. The same is not likely true for a tweeter with an audience of 100,000 or 1,000,000, who may take longer to become aware of the tweet, or learn about it through pass along communications.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Alistair, we use a different shortened URL with campaign tracking, so we can easily tell what was a second chance tweet.

    Kmids, it really depends on how the day looks to our social media manager. We try to space our tweets out, so that you’re not going to see one that already happened until at least several hours have passed — and we generally try to have a half-hour to hour between our scheduled tweets. Breaking tweets might happen at any time.

  • http://www.seocatalysts.com SEO Catalysts

    You are right Danny…If you work with a perfect schedule timing of your second chance tweet then you will never face any issue regarding on it…

  • http://stevenhowe.me Steven Howe

    @Joel – Surely the decline is more affected by how many people each follower is in turn following?

    Link activity displayed in a graph will have the same shape if the link is shared with 1000 or 1000000 followers, however if each of these followers were themselves following 5000 people, then there is more chance of the tweet falling from view more rapidly, hence the need for ‘second chance tweets’.

    It’s good to see Bit.ly applying some actual scientific testing to this topic. I wish more people could do the same!

    Thanks again Danny for a good follow-up article.

  • Sara

    Second chance tweets are also a good opportunity to reach audiences in different time zones checking twitter at different hours of the day.

  • http://www.inspiretothrive.com Lisa

    So how many times in a day can you tweet the same article or link?

  • http://davidbatterson.com/ David Batterson

    Lisa makes a good point! It’s good to know if twice is enough so that our followers don’t get aggravated at us!

  • Gibron

    Although I agree with this “second chance” approach, I see just another opportunity that yields more flavor. That is to use the Mobile Industries carrot mule strategy; you remember the G1, G2, G3 and now G4 network / speed platform right? In your post(s) on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, don’t share all the gold in your treasure chest. No, share one doubloon at a time with each post with a little more sparkle (yet related) than the previous. Other successes using this approach would be: BMW’s M3, M5, X3, X5, or Apple’s Mac, MacBook Pro – Think Harlequin Romance!

    Gibron Williams
    Head Honcho
    Oevae Marketing Consultants

  • Matt Keough

    It also likely that some people will have seen the tweet the first time and had an interest but didn’t click through, for any number of reasons. The “second chance” was a reminder and got the click.

  • ldobreci

    Hi, doesn’t posting same message violate Twitter spam rules: “If you post duplicate content over multiple accounts or multiple duplicate updates on one account” (http://support.twitter.com/entries/18311-the-twitter-rules)

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