Last May we interviewed Claire Sewell, who had just been appointed as a Social Media Editor (SME) for the journal New Review of Academic Librarianship, to find out about her new role and her hopes of creating an effective social media presence. A year on, we caught up with her to reflect on the joys and challenges of the role, the impact a social media presence has had on the journal, and what she wishes she’d known when she started.
What has been the impact of a having a social media presence?
Having a social media presence has increased our readership by making the journal more visible; we can make people aware of the release of new issues, as well as showcase articles that are of relevance. We’ve also been able to see the types of news/content that our readers respond to – are they interested in certain topics more than others? Is there something we should be focusing on based on what they are telling us? It’s been a great way to open up communication with our readership.
How do you measure social media impact?
I keep track of basic analytics – e.g. retweets, likes, replies – to give us an idea of the reach of the journal, but I also look at the content of the interactions. To me, this tells me more than numbers ever could: it’s so easy to click like on something and then never come back to it, but if you look at the comments you can see the impact that the content is making on people’s research and practice.
Which social media platform has been most effective?
Twitter is definitely the most effective of the sites we currently use. Librarians have really taken to Twitter as a group, so this is perhaps not surprising! We get a lot of engagement on Twitter, especially when we share details of new articles: it provides instant access to information and content through a short message, rather than relying on someone to read a long abstract.
How do you use feedback and engagement from social media to develop the journal?
Social media is really useful as we can instantly see the topics that resonate with our readers. One of the great advantages to using these platforms is that they encourage feedback and encourage it instantly, which means that we can be really responsive and act on it quickly. Online collections of material, such as a recent compilation of articles by Irish authors, have proved really popular. This helps us to think about the online presence of the journal beyond social media - what do our readers respond to and what would they like to see more of?
We want to make social media feel like part of the journal rather than just an added extra.
Have there been any surprises along the way?
When I started I wasn’t sure if we would get any response at all but I’ve been really pleased to see that people are engaging with the information we put out there. I don’t know of many other traditional journals which use social media in the same way, so I wasn’t sure if it would just be me talking to myself! However, I’ve had nothing but positive comments: the engagement from readers has been a real pleasure and kept me going throughout the year.
What has been the most challenging aspect of the role?
Balancing the time commitment with other responsibilities has been a definite challenge, but one that I’ve adapted to. Luckily, there are several online tools which help with scheduling and I can add messages on the go from my phone, so hopefully I’m maintaining a good balance.
What do you wish you’d known when you first started?
It is important to have a good strategy, rather than just posting content you hope is working; taking the time to think things through can be hard when you are eager to jump in and get started, but I think this planning time is a great investment.
Moreover, knowing at the outset that it is important to ask for help and use the skills of others has been an important personal lesson for me. I’m a classic perfectionist and sometimes struggle to admit that I need help, but the support I’ve had from fellow board members and Taylor & Francis has been amazing.
What would be your top tip for new SMEs?
Take the time to do some research on the best social media platforms for your journal rather than copying what everyone else is doing: you need to appeal to your audience rather than anyone else's.
Also, don’t be afraid to stop using a social network which isn’t working: to use these networks effectively takes time, and it could be that your energy is better spent elsewhere where you can more effectively reach your audience.