A recent report showed that the attention span of many users is now incredibly short, and that many links have a half life of only around three hours. This is made worse than in the past, undoubtedly, by the constantly increasing volume of information now available to us all.

What is interesting is the spin that you could put on the data produced. You could say that it is of more value to produce a Youtube video, put it on Facebook and tweet it to a large follower group in order to benefit from that moment of ‘viral’ exposure. Or you could say that the value may be in not focusing quite so much on social media links that have a very short half-life (eg a Youtube video may have see half of all its views within the first 7 hours’ exposure).

Any long tail proponents in the room would likely argue that the more valuable links are those which are found on the search engines, which have backlinks to them, and which show up year after year for anyone who conducts a secondary search after having their interest captured by a tweet, a link on Facebook or a video.

After all, as a business, unless you are targeting those for whom your products are a likely spontaneous purchase, it is unlikely that a “butterfly clicker” – bright flower (click), brighter flower over there (click away) – will become a loyal customer simply from seeing a tweet.

It is well known that you need to engage your customers – whether in a retail shop or on your website or social media presences – and looking at a Flickr photo, hitting the Like button, or retweeting is only one step in the process of engagement that is more likely to result in a sale or longer-lasting interaction.

In order to benefit from these short-lived links, you need to be constantly monitoring what is going on with that activity, and picking up all those who have responded to the link. This can prove a time-consuming activity and for many companies proves onerous. Which is why far too many companies seem content to operate in broadcast mode i.e. transmitting rather than interacting with respondents.

There has to be a balance between the short-lived nature of social media marketing vs the longer term benefits of having a website and backlinks that keep leading people back to information about your company.

How do you mix and match the activity? Are you focused entirely on social media? Do you archive all of your social media on your own website to build a searchable and indexable record of all you have posted? Or is social media simply too consuming and you would prefer to rely on SEO and SEM so your potential customers can find you through the search engines?

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology