If you are spending countless hours brainstorming, building and perfecting your social media content, I have bad news for you: the shelf-life of your posts is shockingly low. Social media relevance is dependent on the platform, but often a post is only easy to find for hours.
In our three-part series about the ROI of social media, we examine ways to maximize your time, relevance and money on social. Our last post gave you homework: choose 1-3 platforms to focus on. Today, let’s talk about how social networking algorithms work and the research behind social media post lifespans.
(Already caught up? Skip ahead to Part 3: What is the Return on Investment for Social Media and How Do I Measure It?)
About Social Media Algorithms
Social media timelines or feeds are no longer in chronological order. That was so 2016. These social networking companies want to make a profit, meaning they need to keep you on their platforms for as long as possible to show you ads, sell you ads, or both. With that being the case, content that engages people and keeps them in the app longer is rewarded by being shown to more people.
People are constantly trying to “play” or “work with” the algorithms. However, it stands to reason that if your audience likes your content and takes action (likes, saves, shares, clicks, etc.), then the platform will show you love in return. (By the way, no one thinks their content is the problem, so they blame the algorithm or try to play it. If this is you, we urge you to revisit our first post in this series to continue tweaking with your content strategy until you find posts that engage your audience.)
Social media algorithms try to deliver you content they think you’ll love based on (1) your past activity, interests and bio, and (2) the engagement on the content they think you’ll love.
If you really want to dive into the algorithms, this Sprout Social article can tell you more. In the meantime, let’s look at how the algorithm affects the length of time your content shows up on feeds and timelines.
How Long Will My Social Media Content Show Up on a Feed or Timeline?
Social media platforms are constantly and consistently trying to feed you content that keeps you in their apps. This means your timeline updates every time you open the app or refresh it and the content you post gets pushed down further with each refresh.
So how long will your post appear in someone’s feed or timeline? Well, that depends on a few variables, such as:
- The user (someone following 10k people will see posts for less time than someone who follows 100 people)
- The post’s success thus far (more engagement means it will appear on more people’s feeds for longer)
Keep in mind all of these apps have the option to purchase ads to improve your reach, the success of which depends heavily on how well you target, how compelling your content is and long you run it. That’s a whole ‘nother topic. Today, we focus on organic reach and relevance.
According to the experts, your content hits its peak within a certain amount of time after you post.
- Instagram: 48 hours
- Facebook: 5 hours
- LinkedIn: 2-7 days
- Pinterest: 3-4 months
- YouTube: 20 days
- Twitter: 18 minutes
Dig deeper into more info and recommendations for each major platform below.
If you are aiming to expand your reach and post engagement, it is important that you have your profile set to public and not private. Users can also turn on notifications for some or all of your post types.
High-quality content has a longer lifespan on Instagram (which makes sense). Simply Measured found that an average post by a top brand receives 50% of its comments within the first six hours (and 75% within 48 hours). Conversely, high-performing posts (those with double the average engagement) take more than 13 hours to reach 50% of its comments.
An Instagram Story is live for 24 hours. The more a follower engages with you, the closer to the “front” of the Story row you will appear on the Home feed. If you add a Story to a highlight, others can view it there until you remove it. If someone shares your Story, it may live a bit longer. In other words, if they share it 5 hours after you post yours, it will be live for a total of 29 hours. You could share their shared Story again, but don’t get obnoxious with a long chain of shares.
Anecdotally, a decent Reel will pick up a thousand views in its first couple of hours. Unfortunately, many names you see in your notifications feel spammy and may not be legit followers or prospects. The ratio of views-to-likes is small, and the ratio is even worse for views-to-comments. But, with any luck, you’ll see waves of views and likes on your Reel for a few weeks.
The lifespan of an IGTV is simiar to a post because IGTV teasers show up on your followers’ feeds posts.
Some followers may be notified when you start a live video. Therefore, the first few minutes of an Instagram Live are the most critical. It’s best to have consistent days and times to go live, promote your upcoming live and remind followers to join.
There are many reasons to have a Facebook page. Even if you do not focus tons of energy on it, you gain access to Facebook and Instagram ads, the ability to schedule Instagram posts, an SEO boost, and the ability to join Facebook groups as the page (and not as your personal profile).
Facebook has recently started notifying you when your friends comment on other friends’ posts. This means is the more active you are on Facebook, the more likely the app will mention you to others. If your company is listed on your personal profile, people can easily learn more about what you do.
Wisemetrics found that in 2 hours and 30 minutes, a Facebook post usually hits 75% of its maximum impressions and that 75% of engagement happens within the first 5 hours.
A Facebook Story is live for 24 hours.
Although it seems notifications for going live on Facebook are not as consistent as those we see on Instagram, sources say that going Live on Facebook (and uploading video straight to Facebook rather than sharing links to videos on other platforms) boosts the visibility of your other posts, especially if your Live and videos get any engagement.
According to Top Dog Social Media, the majority of your leads and engagement will come from your personal LinkedIn page, not your Company page. You’ve probably noticed that you see 2nd connection content based on what your first connections do (like or comment on posts) on your feed. This means you will drive more traffic back to your own personal profile when you are active on your LinkedIn.
This doesn’t mean you don’t need a Company Page as part of your digital marketing strategy. You do need a personal profile to create a LinkedIn Company Page. One good tactic is to have your Company Page in your Experience section as an employer so people can easily find it when you engage on the platform.
LinkedIn posts tend to go through lifecycles, and success in each stage determines if the post will pick up reach and engagement in subsequent phases (according to Mic Adam‘s observations).
Articles are circulated on what is now called LinkedIn Pulse. Like blog posts, the content could have some longevity past the seven days (though most posts will not be boosted by LinkedIn’s algorithm unless it goes viral). Remember this is not your platform (unlike your blog), so you have less control over it. That said, as with Medium, this platform gives you a place to post where a larger audience could discover your content.
This feature is still not available to every person on LinkedIn and is not yet available for Company Pages. If you are one of the lucky ones with the ability to post a story, you have a competitive advantage. Your story will be one of a few that appears at the top of the feed for 24 hours, bringing more attention to you when connections land on their feed.
WebFX found that the half-life of a pin is much better than other platforms, with great pins seeing traction for months or even years after they are pinned. What’s more, WebFX reported that 50% of traffic happens within the first 3.5 months and that pin traffic doesn’t necessarily spike right after pinning.
Formerly Story Pins, Idea Pins are still relatively new. The biggest difference between these and other platform stories is that Idea Pins do not go away after 24 hours.
YouTube is the second-most used search engine in the world, next only to Google (its parent company). So it’s easy to see why YouTube videos help you grow your presence online. To gain traction on YouTube and Google searches, your videos should be public, not unlisted or private.
Unless your video gets picked up on the home page, added to playlists or recommended after other videos, the most critical time for your video is the first 20 days. From there, YouTube’s algorithm will analyze the engagement and the other types of videos your viewers watch to see if it wants to promote your video further. Do know that some videos can go viral months or even years after you post.
Social media relevance is the most time-sensitive on Twitter. For most users, you have mere minutes to engage your audience before the timeline refreshes and your tweet is buried.
If you are hoping to get higher reach and engagement of your tweets, make sure your profile is set to public. Like LinkedIn, Twitter will show you tweets from people you don’t follow because someone you do follow liked or shared a tweet. Twitter will do the same for those following you, so it’s important to stay active on the platform even when you aren’t tweeting.
Multiple sources say that a Tweet’s lifespan is about 18 minutes, although that statistic is a few years old now. I do think it is safe to say that you don’t see as many Tweets on your timeline after a day of posting.
A story on Twitter is called a Fleet and lasts 24 hours. This is a feature new to Twitter but not new to social media, which means if you use the feature you could:
- (1) gain favor with the almighty algorithm; and
- (2) gain a key visible spot at the top of your followers’ feeds.
Make the Most of Your Social Media Content (and Time and Money!)
No matter which platforms you choose to focus on, there are two key components of efficiency in the creation process: batching and repurposing.
- Plan ahead to create pieces that can be used on the platforms you chose.
- Create that planned content in time blocks and batches.
- Make adjustments to post captions and images to optimize each platform.
This helps with being efficient in time, but how do you optimize your social media spend? Check out our third post and final post in this series, where we discuss the moolah, the scratch, the money.