Bitly was one of the first, and remains one of the most popular URL-shortening sites, making it easy to collect, organize, shorten and share links.
In addition to its open public API, one of bitly’s nicest features is the analytics pane where you can track what happens when a link you’ve shortened gets shared around the web.
These links are shared across all the major social networks, so the bitly people have a unique viewpoint on differences between these networks. They track metrics like the main type of content being shared on each network, the geographic locations of the people sharing and viewing the content, and how the popularity of the network has risen and fallen compared to other networks.
In a blog post called Time Is On Your Side, the bitly team has aggregated this data and visualized it in a way that highlights some stark differences between different social networks with regard to the effectiveness of content sharing. They look at how content propagates (goes viral) through social networks, particularly how the day and time something is posted affects the amount of attention it will ultimately receive.
For instance, Tumblr has a drastically different pattern of usage from Facebook and Twitter. If you’re trying to maximize sharing of your content, the best times to post on Facebook and Twitter are from 1:00 p.m. through 4:00 p.m. (Eastern time), Monday through Thursday. But on Tumblr, it’s best to post after 4:00 p.m., and Friday evenings are a great time for sharing.
As the bitly data makes clear, if you’re trying to stimulate people to share your content, it’s crucial to factor in timing, in conjunction with the specific social network your audience is using.
Bonus! Jonah Peretti, a co-founder of the Huffington Post (and thus a guy who knows something about making content go viral), says it’s essential that your content is “easy to understand, easy to share and includes a social imperative” so that it appeals to the most powerful group of viral agents – people who are bored at work.
[In case you’re wondering, bitly actually reported this data yesterday, but it was late in the day before I got to it, so I waited until now to share it.]