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A Randomized Trial of Social Media From Circulation

The Article: Fox, C. S., Bonaca, M. A., Ryan, J. J., Massaro, J. M. & Barry, K. A Randomized Trial of Social Media From Circulation. Circulation (2015).

The Idea: Does the use of social media by medical journals improve article impact metrics?

The Study: Articles were randomized to receive (or not receive) social media exposure on Circulation’s Facebook and Twitter feeds. The primary end point was 30-day article page views. Studied subgroups included article type (clinical, population, or basic science articles), whether the article had an editorial, or whether the article author was from the US.

The Findings: Almost 250 articles were randomized, with no difference in median 30-day page views. No differences were observed in any of the subgroups.

The Takeaway
:  The study concludes that a social media strategy for a cardiovascular journal did not increase the number of times an article was viewed. It is important to note that this study just looked at ONE social media intervention from ONE institution. There are a couple reasons why we shouldn’t generalize broadly and disregard social media based on these findings:

  1. The authors, universities, and other online blogs were still able to tweet and share their publications.

  2. The articles on the website still had links for facebook, twitter, google+, reddit and other social networks that I haven’t even heard of (“CiteULike”?). Readers could use these links to increase the reach of the articles.

  3. There’s an argument to be made “page views” may not be the only important metric. If people in your social network see a post, and gather the information they want from a 160 character tweet, the article and the journal may still obtain recognition without leading to a page view.

As noted on other blogs, it is interesting that despite the articles “negative” result, social media sharing has led to Altmetric rating this article to be in the 99% for all articles of a similar age with respect to online attention (references on blogs, twitter, and facebook).

#socialmedia