Social media promotion and its impact on attention for research articles: Results of the #TweetTheJournal study

Konstanze Betz (Maastricht)1, M. Giordano (Milan)2, H. A. K. Hillmann (Hannover)3, D. Duncker (Hannover)3, D. Dobrev (Essen)4, D. Linz (Maastricht)5

1CARIM – School for Cardiovascular Diseases Maastricht University Maastricht, Niederlande; 2San Raffaele Hospital, Vita-Salute University Milan, Italien; 3Medizinische Hochschule Hannover Hannover Herzrhythmus Centrum, Klinik für Kardiologie und Angiologie Hannover, Deutschland; 4Universitätsklinikum Essen Institut für Pharmakologie Essen, Deutschland; 5Maastricht UMC+Heart+Vascular Center Department of Cardiology Maastricht, Niederlande


Background/Introduction: Social media (SoMe) are emerging as important tools for research dissemination. Twitter/X, a microblogging platform, has gained prominence amongst cardiologists and researchers for its role in research promotion. Prior studies, as a randomized trial conducted within the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Journal family, suggest a positive association between SoMe promotion and increased citation rates. This effect on traditional impact metrics, as citation counts, remains inconsistent, leaving questions regarding its applicability especially in journals with lower intrinsic citation potential.


Purpose: The primary objective of this study was to assess the influence of a SoMe promotion strategy on the early scientific impact indicator Mendeley reader counts. Additionally, we investigated its effects on the number of citations and the Altmetric Attention Score (AAS), which provides a weighted estimation of the attention gained by research output. This study was conducted within an emerging international open-access journal with a focus on cardiology & cardiovascular medicine.


Methods: The #TweetTheJournal study was a randomized, controlled study. Articles published in consecutive issues were randomized to a Twitter/X promotion arm, in which articles were tweeted four times between the release of two different issues and to a control arm with no active tweeting. Articles accompanied by an editorial were excluded from the analysis. The primary endpoint of the study was the Mendeley reader count, while secondary endpoints included AAS and number of citations. Data from online analytic tools were collected over seven successive issues after a one-year follow-up. Spearman correlation and negative binomial regression analysis were performed.


Results: A total of 162 articles were analyzed, with 80 articles in the intervention and 82 articles in the control group. No statistically significant differences were observed between the two groups in terms of article characteristics, such as type of research, Covid-19 relevance, corresponding author affiliations and time between online publication and data collection. The median Mendeley reader count overall was 7 (IQR 8), with no statistically significant differences between the intervention (6, IQR 8) and the control group (8, IQR 7). Median citation count was  1 (IQR 2) with no statistically significant differences between groups (1, IQR 2 in Twitter/X and control group respectively, p=0.107). SoMe promotion resulted in a statistically significant higher AAS in the intervention compared to the control group (RR 1.604, 95 % CI 0.1.024-2.511, p= 0.039). Overall, positive correlation was observed between the AAS and Mendeley reader counts (Spearman’s ρ = 0.202, p=0.010). Mendeley reader counts correlated significantly with number of citations (Spearman’s ρ = 0.372, p<0.001).


Conclusion: A social media promotion of articles did not lead to statistically significant differences in the primary endpoint of Mendeley reader counts and the secondary endpoint of citation numbers after approximately one year of follow-up. The dedicated social media approach however, demonstrated an increased AAS, indicative of enhanced visibility for articles featured through the official journal Twitter/X handle. Future studies should consider an extended follow-up period and the refinement of social media strategies, including pre-selection of articles with potential scientific community interest.

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