Promoting research papers via social media does not increase their visibility, according to a study published in Circulation, conducted by researchers at the University of Utah.

The research team conducted a randomized trial in which they used Facebook and Twitter to promote 121 Circulation articles, and compared readership to 122 articles that received no social media promotion.

"We thought we would reach people on the social media platforms who weren't already reading the journals," co-author John Ryan, M.D., said in a University of Utah Health radio podcast.

However, the social media promotion, which was limited to one Facebook post and one tweet per article, failed to gamer additional readers. While Ryan said 100,000 people viewed some of the Twitter posts, only a couple hundred read the corresponding article.

Ryan said the results could have been due to several factors – for example, those who follow Circulation via social media may already be readers of the journal. However, Ryan said other factors could also come into play. First, the strategy to rely upon one Facebook post and one tweet was not a particularly evolved strategy, and second, the fact that most social media interaction is done via smartphone is likely a discouraging factor.

"The manner in which we deliver our research information, in PDF's 10 pages long in size 12 font, isn't concordant with the way people want to see information, which is through mini-podcasts, brief interviews, and infographics," Ryan said.

Among the lessons that could be taken from the results, Ryan said, were the necessity for some sort of personal presence on social media rather than a corporate boilerplate persona, and a concerted effort to engage audience members who reach out to authors.'

The study is available here.

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