The Social Media Editor at Medical Journals: Responsibilities, Goals, Barriers, and Facilitators

Acad Med. 2019 May;94(5):701-707. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002496.


Purpose: To determine the responsibilities of journal social media editors (SMEs) and describe their goals and barriers and facilitators to their position.

Method: The authors identified SMEs using an informal listserv and snowball sampling. Participants were interviewed (June-July 2016) about their position, including responsibilities; goals; barriers and facilitators; and attitudes and perceptions about the position. Themes were identified through a thematic analysis and consensus-building approach. Descriptive data, including audience metrics and 2016 impact factors, were collected.

Results: Thirty SMEs were invited; 24 were interviewed (19 by phone and 5 via e-mail). SMEs generally had a track record in the social media community before being invited to be SME; many had preexisting roles at their journal. Responsibilities varied considerably; some SMEs also served as decision editors. Many SMEs personally managed journal accounts, and many had support from nonphysician journal staff. Consistently, SMEs focused on improving reader engagement by disseminating new journal publications on social media. The authors identified goals, resources, and sustainability as primary themes of SMEs' perspectives on their positions. Editorial leadership support was identified as a key facilitator in their position at the journal. Challenges to sustainability included a lack of tangible resources and uncertainty surrounding, or a lack of, academic credit for social media activities.

Conclusions: Many of the participating SMEs pioneered the use of social media as a platform for knowledge dissemination at their journals. While editorial boards were qualitatively supportive, SMEs were challenged by limited resources and lack of academic credit for social media work.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Editorial Policies*
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Journalism, Medical / standards*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Periodicals as Topic / standards*
  • Professional Role*
  • Social Media / standards*
  • Social Responsibility*