Building and maintaining a profile

Topic lead: Andy Nobes, Andy Byers
Last updated: 28/09/2023

Open access journals face unique challenges, but also opportunities, in building their profile compared to traditional subscription-based journals. Strategies include building community, partnerships and credibility, including via the use of social media and attendance at conferences and events to engage new and existing audiences.

Academic journals need to build and manage their profile in order to attract submissions from reputable researchers as well as to appear credible to readers. Having a strong profile helps academic journals establish authority in their field, which can lead to increased readership and impact. An effective profile can help journals differentiate themselves from competitors, highlighting their strengths and unique attributes.

Journal websites are often used by researchers and institutions as a proxy for the quality and impact of the research published, so it is important for journals to present a professional and accurate image. Building and managing a strong profile can also help academic journals engage with their audience and foster a sense of community within their field.

The value of credibility and transparency

Ensuring the credibility and transparency of a journal is key. As a starting point, this can be signalled via good web design as well as by establishing transparent and informative communications channels that genuinely help authors and readers.

First and foremost, the journal’s website should ideally be designed by a professional or by using templates in line with best practice web design principles. On the website, policies, guidelines and contact information should be signposted clearly. Spelling errors and broken links on the homepage should be avoided at all costs, as they are sometimes considered as a sign of a possible predatory or illegitimate journal.

Furthermore, seeing that a journal is indexed in appropriate databases is often used by visitors to assess credibility, and this topic is further explored in the dedicated Toolkit section. Assembling a diverse team of respected researchers and scholars to serve on the editorial board can also strengthen credibility and profile, especially if board members have strong links with their communities.

Finally, journals should use external communications wisely. Mailing lists can be useful to keep readers up to date, but journals should ensure that they do not send unsolicited emails and that any emails comply with relevant privacy policies (e.g. the EU’s GDPR).

The role of social media

Journals should investigate what social media platform(s) their target audiences tend to use and then establish a presence as appropriate. Twitter is one of the most used platforms by academics, while LinkedIn and Facebook are helpful to engage with professionals and the public, respectively.

When using social media, journals should devise a strategy and create engaging content that is relevant to their audiences, using targeted hashtags. This is not always easy, and it may be beneficial to work with communications experts or a social media manager to develop sustainable approaches to social media marketing. A mix of article highlights, blog posts, infographics and videos is likely to be most effective, but journals should consider what feels appropriate to their mix of skills and funding available.

Interaction with followers is also important to create a sense of community, so journals using social media should endeavour to reply to comments and create opportunities for discussion. Linking appropriate research articles with notable days (e.g. Earth day, World Oceans Day) can be helpful to drive attention to the journal.

Ongoing monitoring

A journal’s public profile has to be managed proactively, and measuring results is a core part of this. Tracking web engagement metrics such as downloads, followers, engagement rates, and referrals from social media can help assess the impact of communication and engagement strategies and make adjustments as needed.

To achieve the above in practice, the use of analytics code is common (e.g. Google Analytics, Plausible, Matomo), both for the whole journal website and individual articles. The use of bibliometric measures as well as altmetrics (e.g. Altmetric, Plum Analytics, Crossref’s Event Data) is also used as a proxy to estimate the success of individual publications as well as the journal as a whole (see Journal and article indexing).

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