Annual Meeting Reports

Social Media 101 for Journals: How to Create and Sustain an Effective Campaign

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Kelly Hadsell
Federation of State Medical Boards

Alexandra Kahler
KnowledgeWorks Global

Betsy Donahue
Digital Science
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Glenn Landis
American Society of Hematology
Washington, DC

Emilie Gunn
American Society of Clinical Oncology
Alexandria, Virginia


More and more journals are using social media these days for many different purposes. Regardless of your organization’s goals in social media, it is important to be strategic about it, and a session at CSE’s 2022 Annual Meeting highlighted some ways that journal editors can launch and sustain a successful social media campaign. 

Being active on social media is not a “plug and play” type of project. It requires planning before you get started, care and feeding during a campaign, and reflection and analysis once a campaign is complete. All three speakers in the session addressed the various considerations of setting up social media and successfully using it to promote a journal. 

Getting Started on Social Media

Before you get started with a social media channel, make sure you have specific goals for the use of social media. In his presentation, Glenn Landis, Senior Director of Publications at the American Society of Hematology, advised attendees to determine what purpose they want social media to serve for their journals. Some journals use social media to increase engagement between authors and the journal, some want to improve discoverability of their journal content and in turn increase citations, and others use social media to strengthen their brand. Each journal, even if it comes from the same publisher or society, will likely have a unique purpose for utilizing social media. That purpose should help to drive the next decisions about where to be active on social media, when to post, what to post, etc.  

With your social media goals established, it is time to start thinking about your social media policy. Make sure your organization has a policy in place, and that it is easily accessible on the journal website. Alex Kahler, Editorial Director at KnowledgeWorks Global, recommended that a journal’s “policy should make it clear what behavior will or will not be tolerated online.” Kahler recommended in particular to include the right to remove any posts or comments deemed inappropriate. Behind the scenes, make sure to also have a response policy in place, so that when problems do arise, the journal can act quickly, and not have to scramble to react to the situation. Decide what you will do when a user posts something that is critical of the society, the journal, or a particular paper. Some organizations will ask authors to respond to comments, others will do it themselves.

Next, you may need to make a case to your editor before getting started on social media. Landis reminded listeners to remember that authors are already talking about your content, whether you want them to or not. Having a social media channel, whether on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or somewhere else, allows you to control at least part of that conversation. In addition, scan the landscape to see what others in your space are doing. Are your authors, editors, and/or reviewers active on social media? What about your competitors? Answers to these questions may help convince a reluctant editor to get started on social media. 

Editor on board? Time for nuts and bolts! The first big question is which social media platform your publication should utilize. This is where sources like Altmetric can be helpful. Betsy Donahue, Managing Director, Publisher Relations at Digital Science, explained that depending on the journal’s focus, different platforms may be appropriate. You can use Altmetic to find where users are already talking about your content. Are your authors active on Twitter? Facebook? Determining where your authors are active allows you to be in the right place to take part in the conversation around your content. There are practical considerations as well when deciding on a social media platform. For example, Facebook Business Manager allows you to manage both Facebook and Instagram. But while you can manage an organization’s Facebook page without it, you can’t manage Instagram without it. And if you are new to using Facebook Business Manager, Hootsuite provides a guide for setting up an account. Some organizations also utilize LinkedIn, but that can be a bit trickier. LinkedIn requires that all accounts be linked to an actual person, and they do not want accounts associated with organizations. So if your organization will be posting on LinkedIn, be sure that an actual person owns that account (and make sure you have a plan in place to transfer that account to someone else if the first person moves on!).

Landis recommends asking yourself where responsibility for social media activities fits within your society or publisher. In other words, who will do the legwork? That work may be up to the Editorial Team, Marketing, or someone else (or perhaps a combination of many different teams). What about if you have multiple journals? Will you be able to accommodate the needs of them all in your social media strategy? 

Social Media Posting 101

Once your social media channels are all set up and ready to go, there are several things to consider about your posting tactics. 

First, decide how you will choose which content to post. Some journals simply post every article that is published. While this removes the decision making from the process it also makes it harder to highlight those articles the journal really wants to promote. Other journals have their editors select certain articles to post about on social media. Selecting a subset of articles for posting may give the editor more time to construct higher quality posts that are more likely to engage followers. 

Scheduling tweets is key. Kahler recommended that it is most efficient to post 2 weeks of content at a time. Hootsuite can then automatically schedule the time of your tweets to get the most traction based on usual levels of activity on your channel. This also allows you to notify the authors when their paper will appear on social media. The journal can ask the author to engage with that post by commenting or retweeting to ensure as many followers as possible see it and engage with it. 

Kahler also suggested that editorial offices add social media information in their email signatures. This is an easy way to remind authors of where to find the journal on social media.

Measuring Success

Once you get the channel up and running, don’t just let it go. Make sure to monitor each account and report on data from it, so you can understand whether you are reaching the goals you set out at the beginning. Donahue explained how article level metrics, specifically Altmetric, can be used to measure and drive engagement with journal content, since it can indicate online engagement in ways that go beyond traditional citation metrics. Altmetric differs from other traditional article metrics in that it informs on the societal impact of a particular article, and not just reaction from the research community. 

Traditional metrics such as citations can take months or years to appear. The benefit of Altmetric is that article attention, such as Twitter mentions or appearances in the news, can begin to develop as soon as hours after publication. Using Altmetric to track how certain articles or tweets are doing can tell you what people are saying about your content right now, as opposed to waiting to see how a paper will be cited over the next few years. Knowing which articles are being talked about can inform your social media strategy by showing you where to focus attention. 

Altmetric Explorer allows you to see who tweets about your content the most. Perhaps these are the people you want to invite to host a tweetorial about one of your papers, or perhaps even serve as reviewers or editorial board members. Use Altmetric Explorer to see what your most popular content was this week and promote that on social media, or build rapport by letting the authors know how popular their article was. You can even use Altmetric Explorer to get more information on your competitors via a new journal dashboard called Google BigQuery. The tool compares journals to a baseline as well as competitors and helps publishers see where they can improve. 

Social media platforms are always changing, and channels require constant care and feeding. With this information in your back pocket, you will be poised and ready when your editor decides they want to do LinkedIn too! And Instagram, and Facebook, and…