There’s lot of discussion around what a shared link is actually worth, many past studies suggesting that if someone doesn’t see a Facebook post or tweet within a few hours of being posted then they never will.

The value of a link makes extremely interesting food for thought  when you consider the millions of links that are shared online everyday between friends, marketers and everyone else in-between, but how can the value of those links be measured?

It sounds like an impossible task, and in reality it is, but URL shortening company, bitly – which sees millions of links pass through it’s hands everyday – has come up with an intuitive way of measuring the life of links, half-life.

Half-life measures how long it takes for a shared link to receive half the clicks it will ever get. The term originates from a scientific measurement of “the period of time it takes for a substance undergoing decay to decrease by half” (thanks, Wikipedia).

The results from bitly’s half-life research are as follows:

  • Twitter – 2.8 hours
  • Facebook – 3.2 hours
  • email and IM – 3.4 hours

All considered, the results follow a similar trend which isn’t too surprising, but there is an exception to the rule, YouTube. Shared links that originate from YouTube are reported to have considerably longer half-life of 7.4 hours. You can see the clear difference in the graph below:

halflife_density

Image via bit.ly blog

In a  nutshell, the half-life of a bitly link is about 3 hours, with the exception of YouTube.

This research is interesting but admittedly lacks a degree of concrete facts for digital marketers to go away and action. What can be taken from this research is the importance of tracking links across all social networks and it essentially comes down to what you share and not where you share it.