Whether you’re in the process of creating a new digital journal marketing plan or working to build upon existing marketing efforts, identifying viable promotion approaches can be tricky. There are so many possible outlets to explore — from social media to blogging to email. And to successfully implement any of them requires mastering different strategies and tactics.
It takes trial and error to figure out the right promotion mix for any publication, but that doesn’t mean you have to start with a completely blank slate. You can learn a lot by observing the different promotion outlets other journals are prioritizing and how they’re using them to reach a wider readership, attract more quality submissions, and even help authors garner alternative research impacts.
In this blog post, we round up seven examples of great digital promotion from journals across scholarly disciplines to inspire your current or future promotion efforts. If you want to jump ahead, feel free using the links below. Let’s get to it!
- Twitter and Facebook: The Sociological Review
- Blogging: The Journal of the History of Ideas
- Podcasting: Physical Therapy
- Video interviews: Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
- RSS feeds: Survey Practice
- Email alerts: Oxford Academic
- Leveraging altmetric insights: IWA Publishing
.@TheSocReview asked me to curate a sociological playlist for their Sound and Music series this month. Here’s my contribution, inspired by Black joy, Black anger and Black rebellion. https://t.co/H91hEi1qxl— Akwugo Emejulu (@AkwugoEmejulu) July 24, 2020
It’s no secret that social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, are among the most affordable and easy-to-implement online promotion channels for scholarly journals. But what are the keys to great social media promotion? Or, more specifically, why is it that some journals are able to amass large social media followings while other journals’ social media efforts fall flat?
With over 55 thousand Twitter followers and 28 thousand Facebook followers, The Sociological Review is a leading example of what successful journal social media promotion looks like. Some of the best practices the journal is following that other publications can learn from include:
1. Posting frequently: When you scroll through The Sociological Review’s Twitter and Facebook pages, one thing that stands out right away is its posting frequency. The journal shares new posts daily, and that’s key to maintaining and building its social media following. As noted in a previous blog, both Twitter and Facebook posts have relatively short lifespans of about 18 and 50 minutes, respectively. Consequently, the only way for journals to stand out on either of those social media platforms is to post often. Don’t be afraid to share the same post more than once either, since only a portion of your followers will see it the first time.
2. Sharing varied posts: Another notable aspect of The Sociological Review’s Twitter and Facebook feeds is the variety of posts the journal shares. In addition to promoting new articles, The Sociological Review is using its social media profiles to share a range of updates, such as posts from its blog, advice for authors, calls for submissions, disciplinary news, and even content from other relevant publications. Sharing a variety of posts helps to make the journal’s social media profiles feel more dynamic and enhances their value for followers. In addition to varying the subject matter of its posts, The Sociological Review also takes steps to make each of its posts stand out, including using different social share images for its content and changing up the style of post copy. Keeping social posts fresh is essential to piquing the attention of followers. Journals shouldn’t fall prey to using the same format for each of their posts — think “New article from [Journal Name]” with a link. When journal posts start to seem monotonous, even if they’re promoting different content, it can lead to some followers tuning them out.
3. Putting the social in social media: In all of The Sociological Review’s Twitter and Facebook activity, it’s also apparent that the journal is working to connect with its scholarly community rather than simply promoting at them. The journal makes a point to include relevant accounts in all of its social posts, such as tagging authors in posts about their articles, which fosters post commenting and resharing. As mentioned, the journal also steps outside of the box of its content and announcements, by promoting external news and articles relevant to scholars in its discipline via original posts and by resharing posts from other accounts. While it may seem counterintuitive to share outside updates, it’s actually key to keeping social profiles, well, social. Most people don’t enjoy being around others that only talk about themselves, and the same goes for social media. When journals share outside updates, they become part of much broader conversations within their disciplines and are able to reach more potential followers. The Sociological Review also periodically launches social media campaigns to engage directly with its scholarly community. For example, the journal started an initiative to put together playlists of “sociological songs” using the Twitter hashtag #SociologicalPlaylist to solicit song suggestions from its followers and promote its latest playlist editions.
Overall, effective promotion on Twitter, Facebook, or any social media platform for that matter, comes down to one word – engagement. To keep followers interested in journal social media profiles and attract new ones posting regularly and maintaining a dynamic and interactive social media presence is paramount. If you decide to get serious about journal social media, we recommend checking out some of the many helpful social media scheduling and monitoring tools out there — they can help you save a lot of time!
Another effective journal promotion option that will complement any social media strategy is blogging. Starting a blog can help journals ensure that they always have fresh content to share with their social media followers and draw readers to their publication website in between the release of new research articles. Blogging can also help journals generate more organic website traffic because search engines favor websites that publish fresh content often. Journals can post a variety of short-form content on their blogs, such as new article highlights, author interviews, book reviews, and commentaries.
Producing quality blog content does take time, so you should seriously consider whether your team will be able to maintain a journal blog. Similarly to social media profiles, it’s important to post to journal blogs often, as letting a blog go dormant is never a good look. That said, there are ways to cultivate lively publication blogs without requiring journal teams to become dedicated bloggers. The blog of The Journal of the History of Ideas is a prime example. Since its launch, the JHI blog has been run on the journal’s behalf by appointed graduate student editors. It’s been a win-win situation for the journal and the students, giving students the opportunity to gain hands-on scholarly publishing experience and engage with leading researchers in their field, and helping the journal’s editorial team to save a lot of time. Additionally, JHI’s blog editors have worked to develop a strong network of scholar contributors who frequently write guest posts for the blog. Soliciting guest blogs creates another win-win situation for the journal — JHI gets more quality content to post, and authors get the opportunity to discuss their scholarly research and further their reputation as thought leaders in their field.
Journals aren’t just sharing new content and engaging with their scholarly communities in written formats; many are embracing multimedia promotion options as well, including podcasting. One great example of a journal podcast is Physical Therapy’s PTJ Podcast. The podcast centers on interviews with authors of Physical Therapy articles and aims to get “the story behind the research, including insights on clinical application, study design, and future directions.” In addition to author interviews, The PTJ Podcast features occasional “Discussions and debates” episodes that bring together scholars in the field to talk about timely topics like “Physical Therapist Practice in the ICU” and “Strengthening Academic Physical Therapy.”
The PTJ Podcast offers a clear value add for scholars in its field, providing free access to expert industry insights, and it serves as an effective platform for promoting the journal’s latest articles in the process. Additionally, the podcast is helping Physical Therapy authors expand their influence and the potential impacts of their work by giving them the opportunity to discuss the methods and models behind their research and real-world use cases and implications.
The PTJ Podcast is also notable because it is highly professional. Each episode is well produced in easy-to-digest 20- to 30-minute episodes, with clear audio, a familiar format, and even catchy intro music. If your team decides to pursue journal podcasting, you’ll want to follow similar best practices. Before you dive into podcast production, you’ll, of course, want to read up on how to launch a podcast and start exploring podcasting equipment and software, including microphones, headphones, audio editing systems (Audacity is a great free option), and podcast hosting services. It’s also a good idea to listen to a variety of other mainstream and scholarly podcasts to get a feel for how they are produced and help inform how you design yours.
Another way journals are bringing their content to life is via video. One journal with an impressive video promotion strategy is Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. The journal has a YouTube channel with over 800 subscribers that it’s always updating with new content. Like the PTJ Podcast, Gastrointestinal Endoscopy centers its video promotion on authors, giving authors opportunities to discuss their research methods and findings.
GIE’s YouTube channel includes Q&A style author interviews as well as author-produced video abstracts and article overviews. GIE’s author videos serve as quick research snapshots running around five minutes long, so scholars and practitioners can tune into videos to learn more about the latest findings in their field in between daily tasks or on the go. Using video, GIE is able to put faces to the names of its authors, provide free high-value content to current and potential readers, and raise awareness of its articles.
Harkening back to the previous section on journal podcasting, GIE is another example of a journal with a successful podcast. GIE runs quarterly podcasts on new journal articles and monthly podcasts on timely industry topics.
We’ve been talking a lot about promotion outlets you can use to generate new journal awareness, but what about using promotion to stay in touch with your existing journal readers? Giving readers the opportunity to subscribe to regular journal updates is the way to go. One of the easiest ways to do this is creating a journal RSS feed. Once set up, RSS feeds essentially run themselves (note: if you use Scholastica’s publishing platform, your journal will automatically have an RSS feed). If you’re unfamiliar with RSS, it stands for “Really Simple Syndication.” RSS feeds are machine-readable feeds of website updates that, when plugged into RSS readers, such as Feedly, generate auto-updating alerts for new website content, including associated images and text snippets.
One example of a journal with an engaging RSS feed is Survey Practice. There are a few elements of the journal’s publishing process that lend themselves to a better RSS feed experience for readers. First, the journal adds images and brief descriptions to all of the articles it publishes, which are pulled into RSS readers, making the journal’s content more engaging. Survey Practice also follows a rolling publishing model, meaning it publishes new articles online as they’re ready. Publishing articles on a rolling basis helps Survey Practice to ensure that its website and consequently RSS feed always has fresh content for readers. Journals with blogs can also include blog posts in their RSS feeds as another way to ensure subscribers regularly see new content.
Another way for journals to promote new content to existing readers is by giving them the option to sign up for journal email alerts. A great example of a publisher that’s making it easy for readers to subscribe to receive journal update emails is Oxford Academic. The publisher offers multiple email alert options for its journals, including new issue alerts, and alerts for articles published online in advance of print. Oxford makes it easy to sign up for email alerts from individual journal websites and also has a main email alerts signup page where readers can request alerts from multiple publications.
While sending regular journal email alerts may sound time-consuming, it doesn’t have to be. There are many email systems, such as MailChimp, that include RSS integrations that make it possible to schedule recurring content alert emails auto-populated from RSS feeds. Taking some time to prepare custom journal update emails also has its pros, including having the ability to add custom elements to emails. For example, a journal might choose to include timely publication announcements, such as calls for submissions or even reviewers, in its regular new article alert emails when applicable.
Ultimately, the primary goals of promotion for any journal are attracting more readers and top-quality submissions. One of the best ways to achieve these aims is by tracking alternative article-level metrics or altmetrics. Publishers can use altmetrics to identify their most engaged with articles and build promotion strategies around them, such as planning special issues based on top-performing article topics or featuring top-performing articles in blogs, podcasts, or other supplementary journal content. Publishers can also make altmetrics public, providing added publication value to authors by helping them to track and demonstrate the impacts of their research.
One example of a publisher that’s successfully using altmetrics as part of its journal promotion strategy is The International Water Association (IWA). IWA features Altmetric badges on all of its article pages that showcase articles’ alternative research impacts, including mentions in news outlets, blogs, and social media posts. Additionally, the publisher uses Altmetric’s “Explorer“ tool to get a birds-eye-view of the alternative impacts of all of their articles that they use to inform journal promotion planning. For example, IWA works to highlight when its journal articles are featured in the media and also takes steps to amplify the reach of its most-engaged with journal articles to draw in more readers.
We hope these examples of great journal promotion have given you some inspiration for developing new journal promotion strategies! We invite you to share questions or additional examples with us in the comments section or on Twitter by tagging us at @scholasticahq.