April 5, 2018 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
Social media marketing is a great way for companies to promote content and increase brand awareness because it puts your information in front of your audience where they already spend time. But with the constant content updates, algorithm changes, and the “immediate” nature of social media, you only have a limited time to generate engagement and interaction with your posts before they become buried in the feed. Today, we’re discussing the lifespan of social media content with topics like:
Image via Unsplash by @jeremybenzanger
The lifespan of a social media post is the average time your content has for people to see and engage with it before it disappears into the feed. When you share content on most platforms, the newest or most recent posts appear at the top of a user’s feed. Over time, as they refresh the page or leave an app and come back, that content gets replaced with newer posts. If they want to find yours again, the user has two options: visit your page directly or continue the endless scroll until they see it again.
The window of opportunity from the minute you hit the post button to when your post gets buried too far down the feed that people stop scrolling to find it is that post’s lifespan. Once your post reaches the end of its lifespan, it stops being effective for your brand because nobody is seeing it or engaging with it anymore.
Like search engines, almost every social media platform runs its own algorithm. In a perfect world, a user would always see content in chronological order, with the newest posts starting at the top of their feed. That would make things simple and easier to find. But that’s not how it works. Social media platforms try to curate content on user feeds based on their likes, browsing preferences, clicks, and even their locations. This should frustrate users because they should have the option to curate their own feeds, but most of them likely don’t know this kind of behavior happens.
For brands using social media as a marketing tool, this is downright frustrating. In order to get featured on feeds, even those of the people who like and follow your profiles, brands have to play a sort of social SEO game for that optimum real estate. Then they have to make sure their posts are interesting and impactful enough to soak up the maximum amount of engagement within that lifespan. Depending on your niche, you may also contend with more paid social posts and advertisements that may eclipse your free ones. The lifespans on those posts last longer because they’re boosted, but you have to pay to play that game.
These aren’t insurmountable factors by any means, and having a presence on social media is still preferable to being #disconnected. But it’s important to know what factors could work against you so that you can mitigate them and get the longest amount of visibility time for your content.
Yes, post longevity on social media matters for your marketing campaigns. The longer a post lasts on a social media platform, the more likely it is to generate additional engagement and reach for your brand. That’s the whole goal of social media marketing. You want to get as much visibility, as much engagement, and as many content clicks as possible. The better a post performs the more it may correlate to attracting qualified leads and sales. That makes it worth the time and resources you put into creating those posts.
While you may be able to crack the social media algorithm code, there’s another factor that directly affects a post’s longevity: human behavior. Why people do what they do isn’t an exact science. That makes it harder to predict what content is going to go viral and which pieces are going to flop. So while you always strive for longevity with your social content, you can never guarantee it.
That’s where knowing the lifespan of content on each platform comes in. If you can anticipate when one post goes dark, you can be ready to follow it up with the next to stay a constant presence on your followers’ feeds. If one of your posts does happen to go viral or get a lifespan extension, it’s like receiving bonus marketing without expending any more time or resources.
The lifespan of a social post varies by platform and content type. It can also change frequently with new platform algorithm updates and features. Before we dive into the average lifespans of content on each platform, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you read:
Now, let’s look at the length of traditional post lifespans on some of the most popular social media platforms:
Moz conducted a study in 2012 that showed Tweets only stay relevant for about 18 minutes. Though the study is ten years old, the lack of new data suggests that the lifespan of a tweet hasn’t really changed or has even decreased. Twitter is one of the most fast-paced social media platforms currently available.
Because the length of tweets is restrictive and people post multiple times a day, new tweets can become buried quickly. The company itself even notes that Tweets older than a week may not even be discoverable in a feed or on a profile anymore because of indexing and capacity restrictions. They’re never deleted, but they can’t always display.
Sources conflict on the lifespan of an Instagram post. This could be because of its buyout by Meta, turning it into an extension of Facebook. It could also be because the app is constantly undergoing algorithm updates. Some say the Instagram lifespan is 48 hours, while others say it’s closer to 21 hours. Take these numbers at face value, because we can’t find a reputable study with data to back up either claim. One thing that we do know about Instagram is how the app ranks which content to show in user feeds. These factors include:
No matter the post lifespan, it’s good to know that Instagram’s algorithm reorders new posts on a user’s feed between the times of your last visit and your next visit. That means if a user checks their feed before bed at 11 p.m., and then checks it again when they get up the next morning at 8 a.m., the newest content they’ll see at the top of their feeds hit the app between those hours. This means users have a better chance of seeing your content whenever they log on, no matter when you post it.
The lifespan of a Facebook post is about six hours, though this number is also more of a speculation than a fact. Post Planner says that a Facebook post typically receives about 75% of its overall engagement within two hours of posting, but doesn’t fall off the feed for another four. But this data is still at least 10 years old and doesn’t have a reputable study to back it up.
Instead, we can focus on what we do know: Facebook’s content ranking factors. Because Meta owns both Instagram and Facebook, many of their ranking factors are the same. According to Search Engine Journal, Facebook determines how and when to show content based on:
It’s a generally held belief that the lifespan of a LinkedIn post lasts about 24 hours. But again, many sources around the internet spout this fact without citing an actual data study. It does make sense that LinkedIn posts may have a longer lifespan than some other social platforms because it’s considered a professional social network. People may not access it after business hours or on the weekends, but may still see and engage with your content when they log back on during the workweek.
We can also look at LinkedIn’s content ranking factors to determine the likelihood of getting your posts in front of the right people. These factors include:
TikTok is the baby of the social media family right now. It’s no surprise that there’s not enough data yet to determine how fast a TikTok post gets lost in the feed. Many sources believe that these posts decay almost immediately after they’re shared unless they go viral. Experimenting with trends and hashtags on the app could also extend a post’s longevity.
YouTube is a little different than other social media because it’s more of a hosting site rather than a feed-based platform. But it’s still a common channel for content marketing. Sources say that the lifespan for a YouTube video is around 20 days, but this data, like many of the others, is over 10 years old. YouTube’s algorithm focuses on suggesting videos to users based on the number of likes, comments, and engagements it receives. This could increase the lifespan of your videos and their viewership over time, even after the content initially “dies” in terms of its traditional lifespan.
Here’s a list of steps to help you improve the lifespan of your social media content:
The best way to get more engagement and shares for your content is to create high-quality pieces your audience wants to see. For some brands, this may include links to informational articles and blog posts. For others, it relies on media and visuals, like brief video clips and product photos. The elements you pick for your content strategy should each have a purpose and help educate and convert your audience. Other goals for quality social media include building brand awareness and providing value to your audience.
Make sure every social post you share has an interesting message and an effective call to action (CTA). These are elements that not only push your audience to take action, and increase your sales and conversions, but to keep sharing and circulating your content on social platforms so they last longer.
To make your content last as long as possible on each app, take advantage of platform-specific tools. For example, rather than posting a YouTube link to your brand’s new video, consider uploading videos directly to Facebook. Research has shown that native video can generate 10 times the reach that you can get from sharing a video link. On Instagram and Facebook, the Stories feature allows you to give your image and video content new life. Rather than posting content once, you can repurpose it via Stories, which gives your followers another chance and more time to engage with it.
Posting at the right time increases your chances of connecting with your followers and improving the lifespan of your content. Naturally, posting when your followers aren’t active could drive your content lifespan far below average. In contrast, posting when your audience is engaged and more likely to share or comment can help your social content gain more traction and remain relevant longer.
To assess when your followers are most active, analyze the audience’s insights from each social platform. Then schedule your content to publish at peak times and monitor content performance closely. This can help you engage with your audience and extend the life of your content. There are also general guidelines for social media posting that can help you understand when and how often to post. Those guidelines include:
While these are suggestions for popular platforms, your audience data should always take priority over average suggestions from the internet. For example, if your brand has a very active Instagram community, but few Twitter followers, you may post to Instagram more often than recommended, and post to Twitter less.
Asking your audience questions and interacting with them can help the post generate more engagements and extend its lifespan. This can also help you generate more engagement in a shorter amount of time. Many social media platforms have tools that allow you to create polls or ask questions that followers can respond to directly on the site or platform. Another great way to extend the life of your post is to highlight and showcase answers people submit. This can encourage others to answer the question and continue to increase the post’s engagement.
Asking questions is also a great way to learn more about your audience and what they like. Using this information, you can create more targeted, high-quality content. Because you’re creating content that people want to see, you can also extend the general lifespan of your social media posts and improve your customer or follower loyalty.
Repurposing your older content is a great way to recycle some of your best material. It helps your social media accounts generate engagement for popular trends or searches. It also helps you reach new audience members who might have an interest in your brand or content. When repurposing content, first look at some of your most popular social media posts and the engagement they created. Then, see how you can use that post or content in new ways to create even more engagement.
For example, say you posted a how-to video that was very popular with your audience. See how you can use the information in the video to create a blog post or an infographic and share that new content on your social media. It’s the same information as before, but you’re presenting it in a new and exciting way.
Social media isn’t just a place to create new posts and content. It’s also a place to share and showcase other written pieces and media that puts your brand’s best foot forward. Whether you’re an enterprise business creating content for your own brand or an agency that serves multiple clients, we address all your content needs. Schedule your strategy call with our team to discuss your content journey, and we’ll help you create a game plan to get the content marketing results you want.
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