How Long Do Social Links Last?

How much time passes on average before a link gets roughly half the clicks it will ever receive? The answer is about 3 hours, according to recent study by, a URL shortening service.

In its research, measured the longevity of 1,000 popular links by looking at their ‘half life’ – the amount of time that lapses before a link will receive half the clicks it will ever receive after its peak. The research highlights that a link’s half-life is primarily determined by the nature of the content it points to, in addition it where the link is posted.

On the content front, news-related links have a half-life of just 5 minutes, whereas links that point to content that carry interest over time have a longer lifespan, with the stickiest most popular links not reaching their half-life until over 11 hours. Across all content types, the popularity of a link follows the same pattern, starting with an initial burst of interest which quickly peaks, followed by a decline over time.

Where links are shared also impacts a link’s life. Links shared on Twitter have the shortest average lifespan of 2.8 hours, whereas those shared via Facebook have an average lifespan of 3.2 hours (or 24 minutes longer than Twitter). Those shared via what refers to as ‘direct sources’ (i.e., email and instant messengers) have a slightly longer life of 3.4 hours. The only social media platform that is a bit of an outlier is YouTube – links shared via YouTube garner 7.4 hours of attention before waning.

With more people spending more and more time on social networks – i.e., 80% of all Internet users now spend nearly 25% of their online time on social networking and blog sites, according to Nielson’s Q3 2011 Social Media Report – it is important for brand owners to keep a watchful eye on the activity on these sites. It also requires expedient response times from brand owners to remove links that point to infringing content.