Background: The purpose of this study is to quantify the relationship between social media use and the dissemination of research across nontraditional channels.
Methods: Between June and August of 2016, the authors identified 10 plastic surgery journals with the highest impact factor and their 10 most widely circulated articles. Article age; journal impact factor; “distinguished” article designation; and social media metadata of the first authors, last authors, and journals were incorporated into a multivariate regression model to predict the Altmetric Attention Score, a quantitative measure of popularity across Web-based media platforms.
Results: A total of 100 articles, 181 authors, and 10 journals were identified. Older articles tended to be less popular. The article’s popularity was associated with the journal’s audience size, but not with the author’s social media activity. For each 1,000 additional Twitter followers of the journal of publication, the Altmetric score is greater by a factor of 1.72 (95 percent CI, 1.08 to 2.75), which is the equivalent of 72 percent more Tweets. There is also a small but statistically significant negative association between the author’s social media audience size and the popularity of his or her articles: for every 1,000 additional followers, the Altmetric score is lower by a factor of 0.82 (95 percent CI, 0.73 to 0.93), which is the equivalent of 17.8 percent fewer Tweets.
Conclusion: The popularity of an article across social media platforms is associated with the journal’s audience on social media, not with the magnitude of the author’s social media activity.