I’m currently in Brazil in a sort of vacation, trying to enjoy life without a smart phone (damn you, Verizon’s outdated CDMA network!!), and when I finally get to skim over my Google Reader, I was surprised to see a post by the great Pamela Vaughan talking about the Shelf Life of Social Media Links.
What On Earth does Social Media Shelf Life Mean?
Pamela based her article on Bit.ly’s original research on how long will people pay attention to links shared through different social media outlets. Shelf life, in this case, is how long a link is considered active after it’s original appearance. Bit.ly is perfectly suited for this, since they track every URL shortened using their amazing API for almost forever.
The research showed an average engagement time of about 3 hours for links shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Email. Links on Youtube had a longer shelf life, of about 7 hours. Here’s the breakdown:
- Mean half life of a link on Twitter – 2.8hrs
- Mean half life on Facebook – 3.2hrs
- Mean haf life of links shared thru IM, Email, or any other “direct” source – 3.4hrs
- For links on Youtube – mean half life of 7.4hrs
Here’s Bit.ly’s densityXtime graphic:
So… All My Hard Work Producing Content Evaporates After 3 hours?
Here’s an awesome answer: IT DEPENDS.
Bit.ly’s research calculated the Shelf Life of a link about a “baby otter being befriended by orphaned baby kittens“, which was about 70 minutes long. However, when they tracked the half-life of a link for “East Coast earthquake: 5.8 magnitude epicenter hits Virginia” its half life was only 5 minutes.
So, when you share stuff about kittens and baby otters, people seem to pay attention longer than when you share about natural disasters. Go figure.
But the real reason it depends is because even though Social Media can drive a gigantic amount of traffic (RTs, Shares, G+s, etc…), it’s certainly NOT your main source NEITHER will it determine the end of your content’s life.
How To Immortalize Your Content Using SEO
Let’s say you write about something a little less entertaining than baby otters and orphaned kittens, and a little more long-lasting than an earthquake. You may get a half life of about 30 minutes.
Let’s say in 30 minutes you receive about 100 visits. Engaging these visitors as quickly as possible can guarantee they’ll come back AND make sure THEY HELP YOU RANK. Here are some ideas:
- Spend Sometime on Your Headline to make it intriguing and exciting
- Have your main bullets, graphs, or images show up above the fold
- Have a newsletter signup box easily identified – preferably, above the fold
- Make use of Social Sharing buttons that require little work – G+, FB Like, and Tweet are my favorite. Digg & Reddit are good too, depending on your content.
Let’s say out of those 100 visits, you get 3 newsletter subscribers, 4 likes, 3 tweets, and 2 G+.
Your new subscribers will receive content straight in their inbox, and the social “clicking” will help push your half-life a bit longer. But, it will also boost your rankings.
Social Activity Strengthens Your SEO Rankings
I will write more in depth about this, but search engines are now seeing tweets, likes, and G+s (so weird to write this!) as personal recommendations. So, if somebody you follow tweets about a page related to your search, that page may show up higher in your results.
And as you know, as long as your site is up and your content is relevant, you’ll continue to receive traffic. Way longer than 3.2 hours.
So, the more social activity you get, the broader your content will reach. I promise I will write a more detailed post about this. Do you promise you’ll read it and then click on the social buttons? wink wink
Let me know if you think this research seems accurate to you. I feel sometimes that I see the same link being RTd over and over, for much longer than just 3 hours. Do you? Leave a comment 😉