A recent study carried out jointly by Microsoft, the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation, and Columbia University examined 2.8 million shares on Twitter, with a total potential audience of 75 billion views, 9.6 million actual clicks, and 59,000 unique resources in order to determine the extent to which URLs shared on Twitter are actually clicked on.

This is the first study of its kind, with all previous research into Twitter engagement ignoring actual clicks.

Silent URLs

According to the study, as many as 59% of all links posted, shared and re-shared on Twitter are “silent” links.  That means that no matter how often the tweets with them in are seen and shared, the links themselves are never clicked on.

This is particularly true of so-called “niche” content, with unfamiliar, long tail content receiving the least clicks, despite being widely shared, whereas more familiar URL sources are more frequently clicked.

Longer Attention Span

Another interesting finding is that a large proportion of clicks from Twitter shares occur quite some time, often days, after the original shares, suggesting that social media provides a longer attention span than is commonly assumed.

This is probably at least partly due to the fact that social media moves very quickly, and users may well not have the available attention at the time. However, users clearly appear to review what has been shared with them later and over time, leading to a significant click delay in many cases.

Promotion, Brand & Engagement

Although promotion remains effective in increasing brand and content recognition, infrequent or niche URLs are seen by significantly fewer users compared to known and successful URLs.

Read the full study here.