Does Tweeting Improve Citations? One-Year Results From the TSSMN Prospective Randomized Trial

Ann Thorac Surg. 2021 Jan;111(1):296-300. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2020.04.065. Epub 2020 Jun 3.


Background: The Thoracic Surgery Social Media Network (TSSMN) is a collaborative effort of leading journals in cardiothoracic surgery to highlight publications via social media. This study aims to evaluate the 1-year results of a prospective randomized social media trial to determine the effect of tweeting on subsequent citations and nontraditional bibliometrics.

Methods: A total of 112 representative original articles were randomized 1:1 to be tweeted via TSSMN or a control (non-tweeted) group. Measured endpoints included citations at 1 year compared with baseline, as well as article-level metrics (Altmetric score) and Twitter analytics. Independent predictors of citations were identified through univariable and multivariable regression analyses.

Results: When compared with control articles, tweeted articles achieved significantly greater increase in Altmetric scores (Tweeted 9.4 ± 5.8 vs Non-tweeted 1.0 ± 1.8, P < .001), Altmetric score percentiles relative to articles of similar age from each respective journal (Tweeted 76.0 ± 9.1 percentile vs Non-tweeted 13.8 ± 22.7 percentile, P < .001), with greater change in citations at 1 year (Tweeted +3.1 ± 2.4 vs Non-Tweeted +0.7 ± 1.3, P < .001). Multivariable analysis showed that independent predictors of citations were randomization to tweeting (odds ratio [OR] 9.50; 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.30-27.35, P < .001), Altmetric score (OR 1.32; 95% CI 1.15-1.50, P < .001), open-access status (OR 1.56; 95% CI 1.21-1.78, P < .001), and exposure to a larger number of Twitter followers as quantified by impressions (OR 1.30, 95% CI 1.10-1.49, P < .001).

Conclusions: One-year follow-up of this TSSMN prospective randomized trial importantly demonstrates that tweeting results in significantly more article citations over time, highlighting the durable scholarly impact of social media activity.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Bibliometrics*
  • Periodicals as Topic*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Publishing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Media*
  • Thoracic Surgery*
  • Time Factors