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The Social Media Editor at Medical Journals

Responsibilities, Goals, Barriers, and Facilitators

Lopez, Melany; Chan, Teresa M., MD, MHPE, FRCPC; Thoma, Brent, MD, MA, MSc, FRCPC; Arora, Vineet M., MD, MAPP; Trueger, N. Seth, MD, MPH

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002496
Research Report: PDF Only

Purpose: To determine the responsibilities of journal social media editors (SMEs) and describe their goals and barriers and facilitators to their position.

Method: The authors identified SMEs using an informal listserv and snowball sampling. Participants were interviewed (June–July 2016) about their position, including responsibilities, goals, barriers and facilitators, and attitudes and perceptions about the position. Themes were identified through a thematic analysis and consensus building approach. Descriptive data, including audience metrics and 2016 impact factors, were collected.

Results: Thirty SMEs were invited; 24 were interviewed (19 by phone and 5 via e-mail). SMEs generally had a track record in the social media community before being invited to be SME; many had preexisting roles at their journal. Responsibilities varied considerably; some SMEs also served as decision editors. Many SMEs personally managed journal accounts, and many had support from non-physicians journal staff. Consistently, SMEs focused on improving reader engagement by disseminating new journal publications on social media. The authors identified goals, resources, and sustainability as primary themes of SMEs’ perspectives on their positions. Editorial leadership support was identified as a key facilitator in their position at the journal. Challenges to sustainability included a lack of tangible resources and uncertainty surrounding, or lack of, academic credit for social media activities.

Conclusions: Many of the participating SMEs pioneered the use of social media as a platform for knowledge dissemination at their journals. While editorial boards are qualitatively supportive, SMEs are challenged by limited resources and lack of academic credit for social media work.

M. Lopez is a third-year medical student, Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.

T.M. Chan is assistant professor, Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Medicine, Area of Focused Competency Fellowship Director of Clinician Educator Program, and adjunct scientist, McMaster Program for Education Research, Innovation, and Theory, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; ORCID:

B. Thoma is assistant professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada; ORCID:

V.M. Arora is professor, Department of Medicine, and assistant dean, Scholarship and Discovery, Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, and deputy editor for social media, Journal of Hospital Medicine; ORCID:

N.S. Trueger is assistant professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, digital media editor, JAMA Network Open, and former social media editor, Annals of Emergency Medicine; ORCID:

Supplemental digital content for this article is available at

Acknowledgments: The authors would like to thank each of the social media editors who participated and shared their valuable time for this study. The authors would also like to thank the University of Chicago for support.

Funding/Support: This study was funded by the Summer Research Program at the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Other disclosures: N.S. Trueger receives salary support from the American Medical Association for his role as digital media editor at JAMA Network Open and a stipend for his role as social media editor for Emergency Physicians Monthly; he previously received a stipend for his role as social media editor for Annals of Emergency Medicine. V.M. Arora receives honoraria as deputy editor for social media for the Journal of Hospital Medicine. T.M. Chan and B. Thoma previously served as social media editors for the Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine.

Ethical approval: The institutional review board of the University of Chicago determined this study to be exempt (IRB #16-0349) from review.

Correspondence should be addressed to N. Seth Trueger, Department of Emergency Medicine, Northwestern University, 211 E. Ontario Ave., Suite 300, Chicago, IL, 60611; telephone: (312) 926-7289; email:; Twitter: @MDaware.

© 2019 by the Association of American Medical Colleges