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Effect of Promotion Via Social Media on Access of Articles in an Academic Medical Journal

A Randomized Controlled Trial

Widmer, R. Jay MD, PhD; Mandrekar, Jay PhD; Ward, Angelina; Aase, Lee A.; Lanier, William L. MD; Timimi, Farris K. MD; Gerber, Thomas C. MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002811
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Purpose: To study the effect of a planned social media promotion strategy on access of online articles of an established academic medical journal.

Method: This was a single-masked, randomized controlled trial using articles published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a large-circulation general/internal medicine journal. Articles published during the months of October, November, and December 2015 (n = 68) were randomized either to social media promotion (SoMe) using Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn or to no social media promotion (NoSoMe), for 30 days (beginning with the date of online article publication). Journal website visits and full-text article downloads were compared for 0-30 days and 31-60 days following online publication between SoMe versus NoSoMe using a Wilcoxon rank sum test.

Results: Website access of articles from 0-30 days was significantly higher in the SoMe group (n = 34) compared to the NoSoMe group (n = 34): 1,070 median downloads versus 265, P < 0.001. Similarly, full-text article downloads from 0 to 30 days were significantly higher in the SoMe group: 1,042 median downloads versus 142, P < .001. Compared to the NoSoMe articles, articles randomized to SoMe received a greater number of website visits via Twitter (90 vs. 1), Facebook (526 vs. 2.5), and LinkedIn (31.5 vs. 0)—all P < .001.

Conclusions: Articles randomized to SoMe were more widely accessed compared to those without social media promotion. These findings show a possible role, benefit, and need for further study of a carefully planned social media promotion strategy in an academic medical journal.

R.J. Widmer was a cardiology fellow, Department of Cardiovascular Diseases, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, when this research was performed. He is now clinical assistant professor, Baylor Scott and White Health, Temple, Texas; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3063-5651.

J. Mandrekar is professor, Department of Biostatistics, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.

A. Ward is communications specialist, Global Communications, Elsevier, New York, New York.

L.A. Aase is director, Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5615-7790.

W.L. Lanier is professor, Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1511-1198 or https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3401-6732.

F.K. Timimi is professor, Department of Cardiovascular Diseases, and medical director, Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0877-046X.

T.C. Gerber is professor, Department of Radiology and Department of Cardiovascular Diseases, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.

Acknowledgements: The authors would like to thank Pamela Poppalardo (Elsevier), Cynthia Clark (Elsevier), Rachel Zeleske (Elsevier), Bruce Polsky (Mayo Clinc Proceedings [MCP] and Hanell Consulting, LLC), and Lisa Muenkel (MCP) for their help and contributions toward this work.

Funding/Support: None reported.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Correspondence should be addressed to: Thomas C. Gerber, Department of Cardiovascular Diseases, Mayo Clinic, 200 1st Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905; telephone: (507) 255-4152; e-mail: Gerber.Thomas@Mayo.edu; Twitter: @tcgmd61.

© 2019 by the Association of American Medical Colleges