Thanks to the rise of social media, a significant number of marketers spend an increasing amount of time distributing 'links', and trying to encourage individuals to share them.

But what is a shared link really worth?

There are countless ways to try to gauge what a tweet or like is worth, but one of the most interesting comes from bitly, the company whose URL shortener is behind millions of shared links.

In looking at the life of the shared links it hosts, it created a new metric, the shared link half-life, which measures how long it takes for a shared link to receive half the clicks it will ever receive.

The results:

  • On Twitter: 2.8 hours
  • On Facebook: 3.2 hours
  • Through email and IM: 3.4 hours

All told, the average half-life for a shared links is on the order of three hours. That the half-life of a shared link is typically measured in hours is not surprising.

On Twitter and Facebook, users are bombarded with shared links, and even if yours leads to something incredibly insightful or entertaining, a shared links that's more insightful or entertaining is on its way.

But that doesn't mean that there's nothing that can be done to extend the life of a shared link. bitly discovered that the half-life of a YouTube shared link is 7.4 hours, hinting that video content may have some additional staying power.

There's also the fact, as bitly points out, that certain kinds of shared links, namely those dealing with a current event, fizzle out more quickly, so trying to exploit the topic du jour may not produce long-lasting results. And finally, while bitly doesn't discuss timing, one would have to assume that the time of day at which a link is shared has some influence of half-life.

In the final analysis, of course, bitly's data is interesting, but arguably there's little actionable guidance for the digital marketer.

Instead,'s global analysis should remind marketers of the value of tracking links distributed via popular social media platforms and analyzing the resulting data to better understand how their content is being shared and consumed in these channels.

Image credit: Yandle via Flickr

Patricio Robles

Published 8 September, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (3)



I've never thought of a link having a half-life, but it makes sense.

almost 7 years ago


Matthew Read

Interesting stuff, I think over the next few years more will be done by SEO agencies and PR companies to try and squeeze more out of every Tweet and Facebook share.

almost 7 years ago

Tony Barker

Tony Barker, Director & Founder at eEnablement - Online Interim Management & Consultancy

Interesting - personally would explain different between Youtube and Twitter as being down to mobility ie more likely to look at link on Twitter/LinkedIn when mobile whilst waiting to back on laptop/pc to look at a video due to download and access speeds.

almost 7 years ago

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