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



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.

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We would like to thank Uta Hauptfleisch (Springer Heidelberg, Germany) for providing us with the data on downloads. We also thank Kali Tal for her editorial suggestions.

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Correspondence to Thomy Tonia.

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This study received no funding.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

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Tonia, T., Van Oyen, H., Berger, A. et al. If I tweet will you cite? The effect of social media exposure of articles on downloads and citations. Int J Public Health 61, 513–520 (2016).

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  • Social media
  • Citations
  • Downloads
  • Bibliometrics
  • Twitter
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