One journal’s web 2.0 strategy

Edward Alan Miller in an editorial in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law:

Our long-range goal is to aggregate a variety of Web 2.0 technologies—blogs, microblogs, social networking sites, file-sharing sites, mobile applications—into an integrated platform that facilitates an ongoing interactive dialogue among the journal’s editors, board members, authors, and readership.

The potential role of social media in heightening journal impact is reflected in several recent studies. One example is a report that social media may represent a largely untapped postpublication review resource for assessing paper impact since articles that appear in Wikipedia have significantly higher citation counts than those that do not (Evans and Krauthammer 2011). Another example is a report that tweets within the first three days of article publication can predict citations, which normally take years to accumulate, with social media activity either increasing citations or reflecting the underlying qualities of the articles that also predict citations (Eysenbach 2011). In short, there appears to be a mutual interaction between social media and scholarly impact. On the one hand, social media ‘‘buzz’’ can lead to citations—that is, researchers being influenced by growing interest on social media. On the other hand, use of social media by researchers can lead to ‘‘buzz’’—that is, researchers creating interest, say, through Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, and other websites.

Our near-term goals are manifold. First, we would like to increase awareness of the journal and its content—that is, engage in more effective outreach. Second, we would like to engage readers, editors, political scientists, health policy researchers, and others in an ongoing conversation, either continuing discussions begun in the journal, say, in the journal’s Point/Counterpoint section, launching new discussions stimulated by what was published, or enabling real-time immersion into current issues and debates in health policy and politics. Third, we would like to broaden the scope of social networking opportunities available to members of the JHPPL community.

Though some of the details of this strategy aren’t clear to me, the general thrust appears sensible. The way I’d organize thinking in this area is as follows:

  1. The quality and importance of the journal articles themselves comes first. Without high-quality, scholarly work, one has little to blog and tweet about. Put another way, if you want people to get excited about your content—excited enough to blog and tweet about it—you’d better bring the good content first! Yet another way to put it is, don’t fall into the clickbait trap. That won’t cut it for a research publication, for which credibility and reputation for something other than “sensational” is paramount.
  2. It would seem foolish not to leverage the existing community favorably predisposed to the journal and active in social media. (Bill wrote about this here.) Clearly this requires purposeful outreach. That could be more than just emailing existing distribution lists to say, “Hey, we have a Twitter account!” It might include, for example, sharing embargoed copies of key, forthcoming papers with social media-active scholars so that they can be prepared to help establish the sought-after “buzz.”
  3. To the extent possible, every product of the journal should be maximized for social media dissemination. This includes, for example, ungating key papers (perhaps for a limited time) and including share buttons wherever possible.
  4. Do not overlook re-disseminating older work that becomes relevant as the policy debate shifts. A big mistake that most organizations make is to only (or mostly) promote what is new, not necessarily what is relevant. Just because it came out last year doesn’t make it obsolete, particularly when it’s still one of the latest and greatest papers on whatever policy issue is being discussed right now!
  5. Finally, if possible, be a source of good content that is published elsewhere. This adds credibility and is a way to demonstrate that one is about the ideas not just the brand. (But, yeah, it builds one’s own brand too.) Heck, if JHPPL or some other journal had a blog, why not blog on great work that appears elsewhere? Become a go-to curator, not just a journal article publisher. The wider audience you develop doing so will still be there when you blog on your own journal’s work. That’s good!


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