Social media brings academic journals to general readers

November 14, 2013

A University of Colorado Cancer Center study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Dermatology shows that a handful of academic journals have successfully leveraged social media to reach many times the readers of the journals themselves. But the majority of journals have yet to embrace social media and so lag behind professional organizations and patient advocacy groups in their ability to disseminate information in a culturally relevant way.

"If a wants to educate people, this is a way to do it," says Robert Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH, investigator at the CU Cancer Center and associate professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Dellavalle also manages the Facebook page for the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Fittingly, Dellavalle worked on the project remotely, collaborating with a handful of medical students now included as co-authors.

The study evaluated the social media presences of 102 dermatology journals and also dermatology organizations and patient-advocacy groups. The social media followings of the most popular patient advocacy networks were about double the followings of the most popular professional organizations, which were about double the followings of the most popular journals. For example, at the time of study the Skin Cancer Foundation had 20,119 Facebook followers, the Dermatology Network had 11,251 Facebook followers, and Dellavalle's Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology Facebook page had 5,286 followers.

That said, "you look at the New England Journal of Medicine and they're getting hundreds of thousands of reads through their social media presence. They're not getting nearly that many reads on the journal itself," Dellavalle says.

The study also showed that more prominent journals tend to have stronger social media followings. "Especially in terms of Facebook followings, the journals with the highest impact factors have the most followers," Dellavalle says.

At the time of study, the New England Journal of Medicine had 439,022 Facebook followers. However, as good as the leading journals undoubtedly are in creating and managing social media presences, there's a steep decline in the usage and success of lesser-known journals. Of the 102 journals studied, only 12.7 percent had a Facebook presence and 13.7 percent had a Twitter presence.

"Some journals haven't recognized the potential of fully embracing popular social networks," Dellavalle says. "Even in the community of academic researchers, there's an ever-changing goal post of relevance. If you don't remain active, you fall behind the times. With continued technological evolution, organizations that fail to recognize the opportunity provided by social networking sites risk becoming marginalized by their inability to assimilate to as an expected form of communication."

Explore further: Obama gets sudden spike in Facebook 'likes'

Related Stories

Obama gets sudden spike in Facebook 'likes'

October 10, 2012

US President Barack Obama got an exceptional spike of more than one million "likes" on Facebook this week in his battle with Republican Mitt Romney in the social media space, a monitoring site showed.

Afghan Twitter users meet face-to-face as web booms

September 22, 2013

More than 200 of Afghanistan's most active users of Twitter and Facebook gathered Sunday for the country's first-ever social media summit to explore how the Internet is transforming traditional society.

Recommended for you

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...

Rare braincase provides insight into dinosaur brain

October 8, 2015

Experts have described one of the most complete sauropod dinosaur braincases ever found in Europe. The find could help scientists uncover some of the mysteries of how dinosaur brains operated, including their intellectual ...

How much for that Nobel prize in the window?

October 3, 2015

No need to make peace in the Middle East, resolve one of science's great mysteries or pen a masterpiece: the easiest way to get yourself a Nobel prize may be to buy one.

The dark side of Nobel prizewinning research

October 4, 2015

Think of the Nobel prizes and you think of groundbreaking research bettering mankind, but the awards have also honoured some quite unhumanitarian inventions such as chemical weapons, DDT and lobotomies.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (4) Nov 15, 2013
This is so true. The next generation will be mostly using the social media to access information. Maybe this is a great way to bring journalism back to its quality. I think there was a website called which could be pretty interesting for journalists to share their articles. (Sorry if it is not allowed to write links - if it is so, then please delete my comment, I'll appreciate it)

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.