Social media boosts awareness of new research

2015 06 17 14 45 52 568 Hoang Jenny 175

It can be hard for researchers to find the time to use social media. But if they want to broaden the reach of studies published in peer-reviewed journals, it's really worth the effort, according to research published online in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

In their retrospective study published on May 7, Dr. Jenny Hoang, of Duke University Medical Center, and colleagues found that a blog post promoted on social media generated more than 10 times the page views of research articles published online in two peer-reviewed journals. The articles and blog post were all on the same topic: incidental thyroid nodules found on CT and MRI.

Dr. Jenny Hoang from Duke University Medical Center.Dr. Jenny Hoang from Duke University Medical Center.

Hurdles such as limited time, a negative stigma, and the lack of acceptance of social media activities as a metric of academic productivity by most institutions may prevent researchers from using social media tools. However, "this study shows that if you are a researcher who cares about delivering the message to a large audience, you should overcome those barriers and explore social media," Hoang told

Quantifying the benefits

In an attempt to quantify the effects of social media activity, the researchers retrospectively compared the analytic logs of two original research articles published online in the American Journal of Neuroradiology and the American Journal of Roentgenology with a blog posting on for the period of April 2013 to September 2014. The blog author was both the senior and corresponding author of the research articles.

The AJNR article was published online in April 2013 and in print in September 2013. A link to the article was sent to AJNR's email list and also tweeted by the journal in September, according to the researchers. In addition, it was highlighted in January 2014 on the AJNR Fellows' Journal Club podcast.

The AJR article was published in January 2014 and was also selected for the publication's journal club. As with the AJNR article, a link was emailed to the AJR email list.

The Radiopaedia blog posting, which referenced the two articles, was published online in November 2013 and later updated in August 2014. Radiopaedia also shared the blog post on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter in February 2014 and August 2014.

The researchers obtained monthly page views for the online articles from AJNR and AJR, while Radiopaedia provided page views and additional data on the blog posting via Google Analytics.

Significantly higher views

Over the 18-month study period, the Radiopaedia blog post had 32,675 page views, of which 30,119 were unique page views. In contrast, the AJNR and AJR articles had 2,421 and 3,051 views, respectively. As a result, the blog posting had an audience that was 13.6 and 10.7 times greater than that of the journal articles.

"This study has quantified the audience reached by social media, which is helpful for convincing more researchers to take social media seriously," Hoang said.

The most surprising result of the study was the magnitude of the audience reached by the blog, according to Hoang.

"This is well-shown on a graph in the article where there are two dramatic rises in page views corresponding to the two days the blog was promoted on Facebook," she said. "In fact, the most common source of visitors to the blog, at 72%, was Facebook."

Other sources of blog visits included Google, Twitter, Tumblr,, Microsoft's Bing search engine, MRI Tutor, and Radiología de Trinchera. Most page views came from the U.S. (28%), followed by Italy (7%), Malaysia (6%), Argentina (5%), and Spain (5%).

Another interesting finding was an above-average increase in page views in one of the articles that coincided with the second social media promotion of the blog by Radiopaedia, Hoang also noted.

"We hypothesized that this could indicate that readers of the blog are then accessing the original article referenced by the blog," she said. "This seems to concur with several other papers that show increased citations and page views for articles that are blogged."

Hoang encourages researchers to partner with medical blogs as well as the public press to get the word out about their research.

"Publicity beyond the confines of the journal is always advantageous," she said. "Never turn down an interview opportunity. In fact, if there is an important article that is in press, researchers should consider directly contacting blogs about their article."

More radiology researchers and trainees should also consider the advantages of having a professional account on Twitter, Hoang said.

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