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How BJSM embraces the power of social media to disseminate research
  1. Evert Verhagen1,
  2. Claire Bower2,
  3. Karim M Khan3,4
  1. 1Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  2. 2BMJ, London, UK
  3. 3Department of Family Practice, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  4. 4Aspetar, Qatar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar
  1. Correspondence to Dr Evert Verhagen, Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Van der Boechorststraat 7, Amsterdam 1081 BT, The Netherlands; e.verhagen{at}

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Ways of communication have changed considerably in recent years. The latest innovation is what has become known as ‘social media’. Wikipedia (itself a social platform) defines social media as “the means of interactions among people in which they create, share and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.”1 You probably use some different social websites, for example, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, ResearchGate, YouTube, Skype, Flickr, Wordpress, Reddit, Mendeley, etc. These are the more popular among a much larger mix of social platforms.

The foremost strength of social media is the constant availability of interaction with your peers through mobile devices. Today, smart phones pack the computing power of a low-end laptop in the palm of your hand. Thereby, you can communicate and share messages, pictures, videos and music, with your social network wherever you are and whenever you want.

You do not need to be an active user of social media to grasp its potential. You can be a so-called listener or lurker. “In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little and 1% of users account for almost all the action.”2 The practical use of sifting through discussions and other people's messages is that you can follow topics of interest (eg, concussion), colleagues (eg, @RoaldBahr, @ProfJillCook) or journals, thereby gaining a very quick view of the latest developments in sports and exercise medicine.

Social media can also be used for research, as shown by recent studies on the topic of concussion.3–5 Within a larger set of studies on concussion, Australian and New Zealand authors investigated various approaches towards the use of eHealth—in its broadest. Sullivan et al3 sifted through Twitter traffic over a 7-day period searching for concussion-related tweets, using a set of predefined keywords. Of 3488 tweets, 1000 were randomly selected and categorised for major content themes. The authors concluded that Twitter is a powerful knowledge transfer medium for concussion education and awareness. The latter is intriguing as knowledge transfer in essence communication; implementation is only successful when you are able to get the right message to the right receivers.6 Social media facilitates this process, and moreover, adds a completely new dimension.7 Through social media you are not only able to spread a message, but also to engage and interact with receivers. In this way the implementation process may be further enhanced.

As opposed to ‘paid’ and ‘owned’ media, social websites offer a platform for what is known as ‘earned’ media; as any publicity can be gained through engagement of the public. You send a message to your followers, which is hopefully picked up by influencers and passed on to their followers. Those followers may then choose to forward the message onto their own followers, and so on; this creates a cascading information flow and a Tweet to 100 followers can reach 10 000 people if the first 100 people have 100 followers each (not a large number) and they all retweet it. For the uninitiated, ‘followers’ are individuals who have agreed to receive the messages you spread through social media. If you add someone to the list of people you read, you ‘follow’ them.

You can opt to remain a listener, but we believe that it is more fun to actively interact with your followers. As a full participant you can share information on timely topics to the interested community, which is a goal of BJSM (@BJSM_BMJ). Using the social platform Twitter, manuscripts that are expected to appeal to a large audience are tweeted from the journal account to more than 10 000 followers (as of September 2013). There is Twitter evidence (using the ‘@connect’ button on Twitter) that such information is commented on and retweeted to varying degrees. BJSM's Twitter account is also used to promote other's interesting tweets (BJSM retweeting material from other journals such as JSAMS, or information from member societies such as conference updates). Clearly a journal with an active social media presence (not limited to Twitter) can help authors reach a wider audience, potentially increasing their paper's influence in a range of ways including but not limited to citations.

The promotion of the recent 4th Consensus statement on concussion in sport8 demonstrates how BJSM and the concussion meeting editors embraced the use of social media. In the 6 months since its March 2013 release, the Consensus statement on concussion in sport from the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport has accumulated over 30 000 full-page views and is proudly the fastest accessed paper ever in the journal. We believe that BJSM's social media promotion (specifically, Facebook and Twitter) has added to this success. In addition, when you access the concussion statement—or any paper on the journal's website—you have the option to share the paper within your social network. This is easily performed by clicking on the icon of your chosen social media channel at the bottom of a paper's abstract or full text page.

Figure 1 presents an excerpt from, a programme by which the journal can track how often a paper is shared within different social networks. As on 27 August 2013, the Consensus statement on concussion in sport from the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport8 was tweeted through 275 Twitter accounts, posted on 35 Facebook pages and blogged about a couple of times. These seemingly insubstantial social outings by visitors resulted in exposure of the paper to a total exceeding 320 000 social users!

Figure 1

Excerpt of (27 August 2013) on the 4th Concussion Statement.8

What does the future of social media hold for us? Foremost, digital natives (ie, individuals born during or after the general introduction of digital technologies) do not distinguish between traditional media and social media. As such, social media will not remain a separate element of communication; it needs to be seamlessly integrated into our workflow. This will enforce the power of social networks and the ‘earned’ media that can be attained through such networks. BJSM has integrated the journal website with the BJSM blog, podcasts, Facebook and Twitter. BJSM's Twitter following is the largest for clinicians in sport and exercise medicine (although there are several much larger followings for sports science tweeters). This field is progressing with giant leaps as we speak, and what is hip and happening today may be old news tomorrow. BJSM embraces the power of social media as an essential channel for disseminating quality content, promoting member society information and listening to the clinical sports and exercise medicine community.


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  • Competing interests KMK is Editor in Chief of the BJSM. He is one of the contributors to BJSM Twitter and Facebook accounts, and one of the interview team for podcasts. EV is a Senior Associate Editor of BJSM. CB is Digital Communications Manager at BMJ.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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