When it comes to spreading popular content around the web, where you post matters. A study that link-shortening service Bit.ly released on its blog Tuesday shows that different kinds of links rise and fizzle at different speeds — depending on the platform they are posted on.
Bit.ly Chief Scientist Hilary Mason and her team have borrowed a concept from nuclear physics — half-life — to explain the patterns of how people clicked on 1,000 popular Bit.ly links across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube links. Half life, in this case, is “the amount of time at which [a] link will receive half of the clicks it will ever receive after it reached its peak.”
A link to breaking news typically has a short half life; it is no longer relevant after a short amount of time. Something less timely, like a funny video, wouldn’t see the same steep drop off — so those cute kittens tend to have a longer half-life. (And we’re not talking about the half-life of Schrodinger’s Cat.)
Mason found that the type of content, however, isn’t the only predictor of how a link gets shared. It also matters where it is shared. The half-life of links posted on Facebook is on average 24 minutes longer than links to the same content posted on Twitter. And links in emails and instant messages remain active slightly longer than links on Facebook.
Link activity on these three platforms — Twitter, Facebook and email/IM — follow a similar pattern. Mason told Mashable this is likely a result of the way that the platforms interact — links posted on Twitter are likely to be shared further, through Facebook and email — though Bit.ly hasn’t attempted to quantify this relationship.
“You could say that Twitter is the best way to post something if you want people to see it quickly,” Mason says. “But one platform isn’t necessarily better than another. We’re just showing that the platforms have different dynamics.”