International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 61, Issue 4, pp 513–520 | Cite as

If I tweet will you cite? The effect of social media exposure of articles on downloads and citations

  • Thomy Tonia
  • Herman Van Oyen
  • Anke Berger
  • Christian Schindler
  • Nino Künzli
Original Article



We sought to investigate whether exposing scientific papers to social media (SM) has an effect on article downloads and citations.


We randomized all International Journal of Public Health (IJPH) original articles published between December 2012 and December 2014 to SM exposure (blog post, Twitter and Facebook) or no exposure at three different time points after first online publication.


130 papers (SM exposure = 65, control = 65) were randomized. The number of downloads did not differ significantly between groups (p = 0.60) nor did the number of citations (p = 0.88). Adjusting for length of observation and paper’s geographical origin did not change these results. There was no difference in the number of downloads and citations between the SM exposure and control group when we stratified for open access status. The number of downloads and number of citations were significantly correlated in both groups.


SM exposure did not have a significant effect on traditional impact metrics, such as downloads and citations. However, other metrics may measure the added value that social media might offer to a scientific journal, such as wider dissemination.


Social media Citations Downloads Bibliometrics Twitter Facebook 

Supplementary material

38_2016_831_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 kb)


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Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomy Tonia
    • 1
  • Herman Van Oyen
    • 2
  • Anke Berger
    • 1
  • Christian Schindler
    • 3
    • 4
  • Nino Künzli
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Social and Preventive MedicineUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Public Health and Surveillance, Scientific Institute of Public HealthBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Swiss Tropical and Public Health InstituteBaselSwitzerland
  4. 4.University of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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