Image Credit: Andreas Eldh
Image Credit: Andreas Eldh

If your scholarly journal is not active on Twitter, you could be missing out on a big opportunity to attract new readers and manuscript submissions.

In recent years, a growing number of scholars have been taking to Twitter and using it as platform to discuss their research interests, higher education news, and thoughts on the state of journal publishing. Scholars’ affinity for the 140-character-max social network has even made academic news, with stories like Times Higher Education’s recent article “The weird and wonderful world of academic Twitter.”

So how can your journal become a part of this “weird and wonderful” academic Twitterverse? Whether you’re signing up for a Twitter account for the first time or you’re looking for ways to spruce up a slow-growing account, here are some steps you can take:

Choose a memorable Twitter handle

The first step to developing a Twitter presence for your journal is of course setting up an account. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can easily create one by clicking “sign up” on the Twitter website and then following the prompts.

One thing you’ll need to figure out before you get started is what you want your Twitter handle (username) to be. Twitter handles have a 15 character limit, so if your journal has a long title you’ll need to shorten it in your handle. If you’ve established an acronym for your journal, then you should be good to go! But, if you haven’t established an acronym, another journal already has your journal’s logical acronym, or you have a long title that doesn’t lend itself to one, take some time to think about how to shorten your journal title in a way that will be easy for people to recognize and remember. For example, the Journal of the History of Ideas’ Twitter handle, pictured below, combines an acronym and part of the title so that it is memorable and not confused with other journals with the same acronym (JHI) such as Journal of Hospital Infection.

Journal of the History of Ideas

If you already have a Twitter account set up for your journal but you’re not happy with your handle, Twitter offers the option to change it. Just go to your journal’s Twitter “account settings” page update the handle listed and save your changes.

Professionalize your journal’s Twitter profile

Once you’ve created your Twitter account, the first place you’ll want to start working on is your profile. The key aspects of your journal’s Twitter profile page that you need to focus on are your:

  • Profile picture: For your profile picture, you’ll want to use either an image of your journal’s cover or logo so scholars can quickly make the association that this is your professional journal account and know to follow you.
  • Header photo: Along with your profile picture, your header photo is the first thing anyone will notice when they click on your journal’s Twitter profile. Try to think outside of the box when it comes to picking a header photo and choose something other than a generic Twitter background. Some options include using: an image of past journal issues you’ve published, a photo of your editorial team, an image of the institution your journal is affiliated with (if applicable), or an image relevant to your journal’s field such as a photo of a lab for a STEM journal.
  • Journal description: Your journal’s Twitter profile will also include space for a 160 character bio. Given the tight character limit, be sure to hone down your description to the key information you need to get across. In your bio you’ll want to include a brief line about your journal’s aims and scope and some detail about your publication, such as the scholarly organization you’re affiliated with (if applicable). Use your bio to highlight your journal’s mission and anything that sets you apart from similar publications. You may also want to include your journal’s ISSN or journal-wide DOI to help viewers find it faster.

Below the Twitter bio field you’ll also find a field to list a website. Be sure to include your journal’s website link here so people can check it out!

Image: Example of a professionalized journal Twitter profile

The above image of Journal of Applied Bioanalysis’ (JAB) Twitter profile is a great example of combining all of the profile components we discussed above. JAB uses a recognizable image of its journal cover for its profile picture and combined with it’s dynamic header photo it immediately communicates to readers that this is a bioanalysis journal. JAB’s description explains the goal of its Twitter feed - to share the latest journal news - and includes the journal’s publisher, ISSN, website link, and that it’s open access.

Follow relevant accounts and ask others to follow you

Having a professionalized profile will make it more likely for Twitter users to recognize your journal and follow your account, but you have to help them find it. On Twitter, people tend to find and follow accounts that their existing connections start following, so you’ll want to quickly build a base of followers to work from. One of the fastest ways to start attracting followers is to follow other relevant organizations, publications, and people in your journal’s field. You can use the Twitter search bar to find scholars and institutions. Another easy way to find accounts to follow is to look at who top scholars and organizations in your field are following.

Along with following relevant accounts, you’ll want to get all your editors on board to help promote your journal. Make sure editors who use Twitter know to follow your journal and to mention it in tweets. You and your fellow editors can also ask colleagues who have expressed support for the journal to follow your new account.

In addition to asking the people who’ve supported your journal to follow you, don’t be afraid to reach out to submitting authors and reviewers on your email list to ask them to follow you too. You can do this by sending an email announcing that your journal is now on Twitter and inviting your email list to follow you. Be sure to explain the value your account will offer followers, such as tweeting journal updates, helping authors promote their newest articles, and sharing relevant research in your field.

You can also have your editors include a link to your Twitter profile in their email signatures so authors and reviewers see it each time they interact with your journal. Each of your editors can include their role at the journal in their signature along with any other job titles and write “Follow [insert journal name] on Twitter at [insert Twitter handle]” along with a link to your journal’s Twitter profile.

Start tweeting and engaging with other accounts daily

If you want to have an active Twitter account, you obviously have to start tweeting! Be sure to tweet at least three times every day. Tweets have a short shelf-life in people’s feeds once they go, out so you’ll want to post at least three tweets per day to ensure people are seeing yours.

When it comes to tweeting, also be sure to send out a mix of content, not just tweets promoting your journal. Journals, like other organizational Twitter accounts, can often fall into the pattern of only tweeting about themselves. While your followers will of course want to hear about your newest articles and other journal news, they’ll also want to see how your journal fits into and engages with the greater scholarly community both in its field and beyond. No one likes to be in a conversation with someone who only wants to talk about him or herself. Think of Twitter in the same way. If all you ever tweet about is news from your journal, people will likely start to tune you out and eventually they may just unfollow you.

Be sure to mix up your tweets using a combination of journal announcements and scholarly news. You can also tweet directly at scholars, by putting their Twitter handle at the beginning of a tweet to start a conversation with them (these conversations will only be visible to the recipient and their followers). If you want your tweet to another scholar to be publicly visible, such as a tweet highlighting the great work a scholar associated with your journal is doing, be sure to put a word or character in front of their handle to make your tweet publicly visible, as in the example below.

.@mike_bader & Warkentien mentioned in great OpEd in @latimes! “L.A. is resegregating…”

— Sociological Science (@SociologicalSci) April 4, 2016

In addition to tweeting, don’t forget to take advantage of Twitter’s other opportunities to engage with followers. You can click the small heart icon below tweets to “like” what other people are talking about and click the square arrows retweet icon to re-share posts from other accounts. Liking and retweeting other people’s tweets are great ways to make more scholars aware of your profile and make your account more engaging.

Good example of constructive online conversation in soc sci. Authors’ creation of a replication pkg is a good step.

— Carl Schmertmann (@CSchmert) April 18, 2016

Interesting debate happening in the comments here (and forthcoming at AJS). New feature of open-access pub.

— Michelle S. Phelps (@MichelleSPhelps) April 11, 2016

As you take the time to highlight what other people are working on and to engage with others on Twitter you’ll be glad to find people will likely start sending tweets aimed at engaging with your journal, too. Soon you may find yourself retweeting tweets that relate to your journal, like in the tweets above highlighting Sociological Science, an open access sociology journal.

The more you tweet and engage with other accounts on Twitter, the more likely they will be to respond to you and to tweet about your journal, helping you develop your Twitter presence.

For more tips on how to grow your journal’s Twitter following check out the next post in this 2-part series!

Danielle Padula
This post was written by Danielle Padula, Community Development
Definitive Guide to Publishing