March 24, 2014 | Kate Nuttall, Publisher @k8nuttall

The role of #Twinterviews

Learning from the social media successes of the Journal of Sports Sciences (JSS)

1. About Journal of Sports Sciences

Cover imageJournal of Sports Sciences (JSS) is in its 31st volume and is one of Taylor & Francis’ biggest and proudest successes. Starting at three issues per volume in 1983, the journal has grown rapidly over the years. Presently, with an Impact Factor of 2.082 in the 2012 JCR Sport Science Category and listing in MEDLINE, the journal is publishing 20 issues per volume (from 2014) and is led by Professor Alan Nevill (@alannevill1) of Wolverhampton University, UK. He, in turn, leads a team of eleven Section Editors and a Book Review Editor. Each Section Editor plays a crucial role in the journal’s success. In fact, each section operates as a mini-journal in itself and receives on average around 100 submissions per year. The sections include: Biomechanics; Kinanthropometry and Body Composition; Motor Behaviour and Expert Performance; Nutrition and Biochemistry; Performance Analysis; Physiology; Psychology; Sport Performance; Sports Medicine; Talent Identification and Coaching, and Physical Activity and Health. The journal is published on behalf of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (@basesuk).

 2. Journal Twitter strategy

The use of Twitter in academic publishing has taken off in recent years. Many publishers have launched their own subject accounts and many journals have followed. In January 2011, 0.2% of Taylor & Francis Online site visits came from Twitter. By January 2014 this had increased to 1.4% of site visits. This means journal content is spreading through new channels and networks and becoming more widely available, not just to researchers and scientists, but to the general public, the media, and those working in industry. Recently we saw the launch of Professor Andy Miah’s @TwournalOf – a Twitter-only academic journal – and his piece in Guardian Higher Education. So what’s next in the world of Twitter and journal publishing?

The answer: Twinterviews!

The Taylor & Francis Sport and Leisure team set up its Twitter account @tandfsport in 2009. Individual articles and collections were regularly tweeted from this account, leading to an increased number of downloads and a lot of media interest in the sport journals. The sport “science” journals in particular stood out. There seemed to be a huge presence of sport scientists on Twitter, a field which relies on the latest cutting-edge research. Journal of Sports Sciences is one of Taylor & Francis’ biggest successes and with the journal celebrating its 30th volume in 2013, it prompted Taylor & Francis and the Editorial Board to reassess the journal and consider which direction to take it in. JSS regularly appeared on @tandfsport and featured in the Taylor & Francis “top articles accessed via Twitter” weekly figures. Due to this success, and the knowledge that many of the JSS Section Editors are already on Twitter, the journal’s Managing Editor (@k8nuttall) decided to pitch the idea of a journal Twitter account at a board meeting. Something like …

JSS publishes wide-ranging topics, overlapping with many other fields. A Twitter account would enhance its visibility via a new medium and:

  • Further promote content and engage with a new audience (e.g. practitioners, journalists, media, general public);
  • Boost usage/citations/increase Impact Factor;
  • Enhance journal visibility to existing authors and readers and give them the chance to talk about their work or share their ideas;
  • Give the journal a fresh look;
  • Bring the journal in line with its competitors.

This suggestion was approved immediately at the board meeting and Dr Grant Abt went away and set up the account.

3. The role of the Social Media Editor

JSS already has a good presence amongst societies and associations in the field, who in turn have their own Twitter accounts and retweet interesting content from @tandfsport. Dr Grant Abt of University of Hull, U.K., was notably active on Twitter (@grantabt) and was therefore approached to take on the role of “Social Media Editor” for JSS and coordinate the Twitter account. The role of Social Media Editor does not necessarily require the person to set up a range of social media accounts; it requires them to pick the right one for their journal. Twitter was perfect for JSS due to its existing exposure via @tandfsport and the large sport science following already on Twitter.

The @JSportsSci account was set up on July 5, 2013. Here are some numbers that followed:

  • By the end of July 2013 the account had 1,000 followers
  • By November 2013 it had 3,200 followers
  • By January 2014 there were 4,258 followers
  • And today (24 March 2014) the account has 5,754 followers!

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4. #Twinterviews

A Twinterview is a “social interview” conducted via various Twitter accounts about a given topic. There is a “Twinterviewer” and a “Twinterviewee.” The Twinterviewer asks questions and the Twinterviewee responds. This is all done in the space of 140 characters. Questions and answers therefore need to be short and snappy. Other followers have the opportunity to join in the discussion or simply “favorite” or “retweet.”

Since its inception, a series of four Twinterviews and three Section Editor “Top Tips” have been run from the account. To give an example of the impact of these activities, from a Twinterview with Dr Darren Burgess (@darrenburgess25@JSportsSci gained almost 100 new followers and close to a 40,000 “tweet reach” (the number of people who potentially saw it because of retweets – information via Some tweets received following the Twinterview included:

"Follow @JSportsSci @darrenburgess25 to catch up on an excellent Twinterview, interesting views on bringing applied & lab settings together”

"@darrenburgess25 @JSportsSciThanks both - that was an interesting conversation!”

"Really interesting twinterview between @JSportsSci and @darrenburgess25

"Great Twinterview by @JSportsSci with @darrenburgess25 on making sports sci research relevant to practitioners and coaches in elite sport.”

"Great use of Twitter this morning Visit @JSportsSci and/or @darrenburgess25 for a recap of Twinterview on research & elite sport”

 "@JSportsSci @darrenburgess25 very good Q&A guys. #interestingreading”

"Very interesting Twitter dialogue between @JSportsSci: and @darrenburgess25 on applied research and real world elite sport needs”

 All great publicity for the journal!

5. An interview (not Twinterview) with @grantabt, Social Media Editor, Journal of Sports Sciences

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Q How did you come up with the idea of Twinterviews? Was this an original idea or something that you’ve seen other Twitter users do?

A I came up with the idea because I think the aim of Twitter for JSS is to add value to what readers can already access. While we could just tweet the link to new papers, I don’t think this makes use of Twitter’s potential. I want readers of the journal to get a “behind the scenes” look at how researchers go about conducting and publishing their findings. This educates the reader about the realities of conducting research and provides insight about why the research was conducted, why it’s important, and what the implications of the findings might be. The Twinterview also creates a dialogue between researcher and reader. While this can be initiated via a letter to the editor, the immediacy of Twitter means that readers can get answers to their questions in a very short space of time. I’m yet to see other journals do interviews, so yes, I think it’s original.

Q How do you select Twinterviewers?

A I select them based on how interesting I think they’ll be to the wider Twitter audience. It also helps if the author is already on Twitter, but at least one of the Twinterviews conducted so far has required the author to sign up for a Twitter account.

Q Do you do any offline marketing to advertise the next Twinterview? E.g. send an email/direct message to all followers/contacts in order to get some good questions?

A The only marketing that’s done is a series of tweets in the weeks and days leading up to the Twinterview.

Q What do you think has contributed to the fast growth in JSS’ Twitter followers? E.g. following people from your own network, using hashtags, or is it down to the existing reputation of JSS, or perhaps sport scientists are particularly active on Twitter compared to other fields.

A It’s probably a combination of all of these factors. In the end I think people will follow you if they are getting information from you that they value. This is where the Twinterviews have made a large contribution, I think. It’s really the value-added information that’s important. Most people are still passive on twitter and prefer to “listen” rather than engage, so we have to cater for those people.

Q Do you see an increase in followers after every Twinterview?

A Yes! The reach has been quite amazing really and we do see a spike in new followers after each one.

Q Do you think every journal should have a Twitter account and a Social Media Editor? Or is it only relevant in particular fields of study?

A Yes, without a doubt. Journals need to take social media seriously. As Professor Andy Miah pointed out in his recent Guardian Higher Education article, papers that get tweeted get cited more. Now this doesn’t mean they’re necessarily better than papers that don’t get tweeted, but it highlights that exposure is important. The challenge for journals is that they are edited by academics, who tend to be conservative. Those journals that can embrace change and new ways of public engagement will thrive.

Q What’s next for JSS on Twitter?

A I have lots of ideas for what we could do, but you’ll have to wait and see! One of the problems I face is that I have a full-time academic post, so finding the time to do that, my JSS Section Editor role, and run the Twitter account is quite difficult. It’s probably a full-time job for someone!

Q What are your top tips for running a successful Twitter account?


  • Be regular – ideally you need new content every day or two.
  • Be novel – to stand out you need to give followers something that others don’t.
  • Value add – give your followers information that they can’t get from another source.
  • Engage with stars – get the big players in your field engaged. If they don’t have a Twitter account encourage them to create one. Then engage with them.

6. Next steps and final tips

Twinterviews work extremely well for @JSportsSci as a way of engaging with its readers, authors, journalists, societies, and a range of other followers on topics important to them. It has driven the number of followers up rapidly and has further enhanced the journal’s “cutting-edge” reputation. Two final tips for Twinterviews would be to provide free access to papers used in the Twinterview in order to follow up the discussion by opening them up for a limited time (or even beforehand), and to start running your own Twinterviews wherever that may be: at conferences after someone has given a talk; when a new person joins the journal’s editorial team; or when something relevant comes up in the news to engage with new people on the topic.

The next step for Twinterviews: we will be running our very own Twinterview with @grantabt via our @TandFEditors account on Tuesday 25 March at 2pm!

7. Useful links

- Taylor & Francis Sport and Tourism News @tandfsport

- Taylor & Francis Editor Resources @TandFEditors

- Journal of Sports Sciences @JSportsSci

- European Journal of Sport Science @EurJSportSci

- Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health @QualiSEH

- Leisure Studies @ls_jnl

- Sports Coaching Review @SportsCoachingR

Published: March 24, 2014 | Author: Kate Nuttall, Publisher @k8nuttall | Category: Front page, Raising the profile of my journal | Tagged with: