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Most publishers and editors know that consistently promoting scholarly journals is key to growing their reach and reputation. But understanding the importance of journal promotion and actually finding the time to do it are often two very different stories.

It can be tempting to table promotion initiatives as future “nice to haves,” particularly for journals with small teams that don’t have dedicated marketing support — and it makes sense. For busy editors and staff, amid vetting incoming submissions, rounding up referees, managing revisions, and getting new articles published, the prospect of taking on additional promotion tasks can seem lofty at best and like a possible non-starter at worst.

But, in the increasingly competitive scholarly publishing landscape, for even the most established titles, it is becoming vital to implement promotion strategies to stand out in the eyes of researchers and build a sustained following, both of which are key to accruing journal impact over time. Embarking on journal promotion doesn’t necessarily have to feel like jumping down the rabbit hole either. Below are three tips to make effective and efficient journal promotion plans no matter your team size:

1. Build recurring promotion opportunities into your publication schedule

A challenge journal teams often grapple with during promotion planning is trying to identify strategies that are long-term enough to have a meaningful impact on publication growth but timeboxed enough to not push editors with already maxed out bandwidth into burnout territory. (Starting a weekly journal blog may sound like a great idea on the surface — but do you actually have time to write the posts and manage it?) To achieve consistent journal promotion without overloading yourself and your team, consider ways to build cyclical promotion pushes into your publication schedule.

For example, you might choose to publish special issues on timely topics sure to pique readers’ interest on an annual or bi-annual basis. In this case, you can develop a repeatable process for inviting notable scholars to serve as guest journal editors to help you attract top submissions for your special issues and widely promote them among colleagues. As noted by Anita Harris, Managing Editor of SubStance: A Review of Theory and Literary Criticism, in Academic Journal Management Best Practices: Tales from the Trenches, your journal can even strategically plan special issues to coincide with slower submission periods. The benefits of which are twofold — your editors will be sure to have more time for special issue planning, and you’ll be soliciting invited articles when you need them most.

2. Embrace available automation opportunities

Journal teams can also execute on promotion strategies in less time by embracing available automation opportunities. As a general rule, any recurring promotion activity you’re planning on doing long term (e.g., for more than a couple of weeks) is likely a possible candidate for automation. While figuring out how to technically automate promotion tasks may seem lofty, it doesn’t have to be. There are many free or low-cost tools out there that can do the heavy lifting for you in prime automation areas like:

  • Scheduling daily social media posts: To get the benefits of regular social media posting without having to worry about doing it every day, journal teams can leverage any of countless available social media scheduling tools, many of which have free versions, like Hootsuite TweetDeck, or Buffer.
  • Sending readers new article updates: Journals can give readers the opportunity to subscribe to regular content updates without having to worry about manually managing email lists by adding an automated RSS feed to their websites. 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. If you use Scholastica’s OA journal publishing platform your website already includes a built-in RSS feed. There are also many email systems, such as MailChimp, with RSS integrations that make it possible to schedule automatically populated recurring content alert emails.

3. Use data-driven insights to inform promotion planning

Finally, the best way to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your journal promotion efforts is to use data-driven insights to help guide your promotion strategy. You can start by using article-level data to identify existing and future journal content likely to have the most promotion potential. For example, The International Water Association (IWA) uses the Altmetric Explorer tool to get a birds-eye-view of the alternative impacts of all of their articles. Using altmetrics like pageviews, download counts, and social media share stats, you can identify your journal’s most engaged with and newsworthy content and build promotion strategies around it, like planning special issues on top-performing article topics.

You can also use article-level data to determine which of your journal promotion channels are working best so you can focus on those outlets. For example, if your current promotion mix involves Twitter, Facebook, and a journal blog, but you find that your blog is drawing in minimal readers, and you know it’s taking up a lot of time, you might want to rethink that tack. A great way to gauge the effectiveness of different digital promotion outlets is using referrer reports to see which websites are sending readers to your journal pages, such as blogs (yours or external), social media platforms, and industry news outlets. Check to see if your current hosting platform includes referral data. If not, you can always add a free Google Analytics account to your journal website to start tracking website referrals.

Quick Tip: If you’re using Scholastica’s OA journal hosting platform, it features a built-in analytics suite where you can track in-depth readership insights like article pageview and download counts and journal referrers (i.e., websites linking to your content).

Putting it all together

There’s no getting around it — journal promotion takes time. But, with data-driven insights and careful planning, your team can develop a solid journal promotion strategy that is both effective and efficient. Above all, remember to prioritize quality over quantity and set clear objectives for all of your promotion initiatives so you can determine whether they’re working and know where to focus your time to move journal awareness and retention needles.