New research from bitly gives social media links a 3-hour lifespan. In other words, if the content links you publish on Twitter, Facebook, and other social sites aren’t shared within 3 hours, the opportunity is already lost.

For timely, news-related content, the lifespan is even shorter — sometimes less than 10 minutes! However, bitly analyzed 1,000 links of various types and found the following “half life” rates (i.e., the time it takes for 50% of all shares of a link to be completed after the link hits its sharing peak) for popular link sharing methods:

  • Twitter = half life of 2.8 hours
  • Facebook = half life of 3.2 hours
  • Email, instant messaging and other direct sharing methods = half life of 3.4 hours
  • YouTube = half life of 7.4 hours

Bitly also found that the vast majority of links follow the same basic sharing patterns as shown in the chart below.

As the bitly resource shows us, after 60,000 seconds (approximately 16 hours), there is little chance for a link to be shared at all. Therefore, it’s important that your best content gets the exposure it deserves. This can happen by tweeting a link to your highest quality content more than once and/or growing your online network so your audience will find and share your content without your prompting. Of course, sharing your own content multiple times can seem overly self-promotional and should only be used for your most outstanding work.

Another option to increase the shelf life of your content is to offer it in different formats. For example, if you write a blog, you could also publish video content so broader audiences with different content consumption and sharing preferences have an opportunity to see your content and share your links with their own audiences.

Bottom-line, as with all aspects of social media and online publishing, quality and authoritative content should win in the end.