Journal managers and editors have always had to be masters of wearing many hats, taking on new roles and responsibilities to meet changing publishing needs. In today’s digitally-driven research landscape, those “hats” continue multiplying, with “journal promoter” rising toward the top of the pile at many publications.
When working with a new journal, it’s common for editorial teams to engage in promotion to help raise awareness of the title. But, if you work with a reputable journal published by a well-known scholarly society or university press, you may be wondering whether independently promoting your publication is worth the extra time and effort — and it makes sense. Many journals have traditionally attracted readers and submissions through their publishing organization’s marketing efforts, including brand identity, annual conferences, and, in some cases, advertisements in industry outlets. Why should editorial teams at reputable journals worry about independent promotion now if it’s never been a concern for them before?
A lot of it comes down to the latest publishing statistics. The number of new journals published each year is growing at an unprecedented rate of 5%, up from around 3.5% over the last two centuries. More journals mean more competition in all disciplines for readers and submissions. While a reputation for publishing high-quality content at the journal and publisher level will always be the number one way for journals to set themselves apart in the eyes of authors and readers, regular promotion is becoming paramount to building and retaining a following.
In this blog post, we break down four reasons to independently promote your scholarly journal and suggestions to get started:
While scholars may know your journal well, odds are most aren’t going straight to your website each time they sit down to conduct research. The bulk of scholarly research is now done via academic indexes and scholarly search engines. As a result, rather than checking specific journals for content, scholars are focusing more on finding individual articles relevant to their research. There are many steps that journals can and should take, with the support of their publisher, to improve their discoverability, such as applying for inclusion in relevant indexes and following search-engine-optimization best practices. But, by default, these are passive forms of journal awareness. Rather than waiting for readers to find you, your journal should also be actively promoting new and timely content to attract them.
Among some of the most effective and affordable outlets for journal promotion are social media platforms, such as Twitter and LinkedIn. If you’re thinking, my publisher already has social media profiles, so my journal is all set, that may be the case. But first, ask yourself if your publisher is able to devote enough time and “digital air space” to your journal. Often, publishers have to spread their promotion efforts across multiple journals and potentially books and monographs, as well as organization-wide news. Even in the case of a journal that is the only title published by a scholarly society, the society’s promotion outlets will still be mixing journal updates with society updates and news of member programs and initiatives. While any promotion your publisher can offer is a plus, if they are only able to share updates about your journal periodically, you’re likely not getting as much exposure as you may think.
Let’s take a quick look at some Twitter and Facebook stats. Did you know that the average lifespan of a tweet is about 18 minutes? After that, the next crop of tweets takes its place. The average lifespan of a Facebook post is only slightly better at around 50 minutes. Given the short lifespan of social media posts, the only way to get a significant number of audience impressions and engagements for journal updates is to post them continuously, and many publishers are unable to allocate uninterrupted social media space to individual titles.
Choosing to have even one journal-specific social media outlet, such as a journal Twitter profile, can exponentially improve the odds of those in and outside of academia reading and talking about your articles. Your journal can use social media outlets to announce new articles and issues and develop a scholarly network.
To get the benefits of social media without having to devote time to planning posts every day, consider making a monthly social media posting calendar of announcements that follow your editorial schedule. You can spread the task of social posting among editors, or you may find that there’s one social media savvy person on your team who is eager to take the lead. In addition to scheduled posts, stay open to impromptu posting opportunities such as live-tweeting during conferences and events. Aim to post to your social networks at least four times a day (ideally five or more) to ensure that your content is reaching a wide enough audience.
There are, of course, many other promotion options that your journal may want to explore in addition to social media. For example, you can help readers stay abreast of all your latest articles by setting up a publication email list and sending out regular updates, or adding an RSS option to your journal website. You may even want to launch a publication blog or podcast to highlight your latest articles and journal news. It’s best to start small with one or two new promotion initiatives and then work your way up from there. As in any publishing endeavor, quality is vastly more important than quantity.
Promoting your journal will also help you get in front of new potential authors. Scholars that see your journal promoting articles on topics similar to the research they’re working on will likely take notice and may earmark your publication for their next submission. Your team can also use journal promotion outlets to solicit submissions for general or special issues. For example, you might post a call for papers on Twitter or your publication blog. Journals can also keep email lists of past authors and periodically reach out to them to thank them for their contributions and invite them to submit future work.
Online promotion outlets, such as Twitter and email, can also be used to put out calls for peer reviewers. While seasoned scholars likely won’t be raising their hands for any more review assignments, early-career researchers are a different story. Many are looking for opportunities to get scholarly publishing experience and will likely be eager to respond to your invitation.
Additionally, you can use promotion outlets to show thanks to peer reviewers, which can help to improve reviewer retention. For example, your journal can post general reviewer thank-you messages on social media and in any publication update emails that you send. If you publish annual reviewer recognition listings, you can even share those lists via social media, email, or blog posts, depending on what promotion channels you use.
By actively promoting your journal, you can also give authors greater incentive to submit their work to your publication over competing titles. Many authors see journal promotion as an added publication value. Authors want to publish in journals that are not only prestigious, but that also reach a wide readership within and beyond academia and elicit online engagement.
The rise of article-level-metrics, like Altmetrics and Plum Analytics, as well as new research assessment models, such as the UK Research Excellence Framework, have put increasing emphasis on alternative indicators of research impacts beyond citation counts. As a result, many scholars are eager to demonstrate high readership stats as well as broader awareness of their work within and outside of academia, including in news outlets, public policy documents, blogs, and even social media. These types of impact indicators paint a more detailed picture of how scholarly works are being read, used, and shared online. They also generally accrue much faster than citations, which can help early-career researchers and those writing in fields with lower citation rates to show that their research is getting noticed.
To take the value of your journals’ promotion efforts for authors a step further, you can also work with your publisher to provide authors with proof of the broader impacts of their works. For example, your journal can send authors article pageview and download counts to help them demonstrate they are reaching a wide readership. You can also explore options to include alternatives metrics on article pages, such as using Altmetric badges.
Journal promotion outlets, especially social media, also present opportunities to breathe life into your publication via online engagement. Your journal’s social media feeds need not, and should not, be passive streams of content. Instead, they should be outlets you use to interact with scholars online. For example, when sharing new article updates, you can make a point to tag authors and their institutions in your posts, so they are sure to see and have the opportunity to reshare them. You can also more directly interact with scholars and other organizations in your journal’s field on social media by sharing and commenting on the content that they post. Engaging with content within your journal’s discipline beyond your article and publication updates is a great way to make your social media profiles more diverse and dynamic, which can help you attract more followers.
Having dedicated promotion outlets for your journal can also open up collaborative promotion opportunities with your publisher. For example, if your publisher is active on social media, you can work together to amplify each other’s posts by sharing and engaging with them. Journals published by scholarly societies can even work to identify opportunities to strategically leverage journal content to provide new value to members, such as by repurposing articles into resources for continuing education. Some scholarly societies have even come up with creative ways to use their journal programs to draw in new members. For example, the American Society of Plant Biologists’ “Journal Miles” program issues “miles” or points to reviewers each time they complete an assignment for an ASPB journal. As reviewers build up “miles,” they can redeem them for thank you gifts, including an annual membership.
Now that we’ve overviewed the many benefits of independently promoting your journal, are you ready to get started? As noted, there are many potential promotion outlets to explore. Three options that we recommend considering are Twitter, blogging, and content resurfacing. You can learn more about these different promotion methods and how to use them in our free Scholarly Journal Promotion 101 Handbooks Series.
Update note: This blog post was originally published on the 5th of February 2015, and updated on the 9th of July 2020.