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Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, in the social network Facebook
Abstract: The new spaces for 'dialogue' and two-way direct interaction, which have been promoted by the incorporation of Web 2.0 tools, have transformed the traditional models of scientific dissemination, and the study of communication models when trying to link these types of relationships with the need of identifying the essential characteristics of the users. In this sense, the objective of this article is to analyse the academic dissemination and connections that the Revista Latina de Comunicación Social (Latino Journal of Social Communication) has achieved since it joined the social networks Facebook and Twitter in early 2010. The methodology involves the analysis of statistical data obtained supplied by the platform Motigo Webstats, and RLCS’s users. The results highlight that the online journal of social communication has made significant progress in the dissemination of its latest issues through the social networks, which increases its value and strengthens its visibility.
Keywords: Social network; Facebook; Twitter; Revista Latina de Comunicación Social; Academic Journals.
Summary: 1. Introduction. 2. Key concepts. 2.1. The social networks Facebook and Twitter. 2.1.1. The figure of the Community Manager. 2.2. Scientific journals, social networks, and impact factors. 2.2.1. RLCS, generating lines of research. 2.2.2. Information on the object of study. 3. Objectives and methodology. 3.1. Methodological design. 4. Results and discussion. 4.1. Positive and negative aspects of RLCS’s incorporation to the social networks. 4.2. Increased user traffic towards RLCS's website. 4.3. New users and modes of interaction. 5. Final considerations. 6. Bibliography and sources. 7. Notes.
Translation by Cruz-Alberto Martínez-Arcos, M.A. (University of London)
Social networks are no longer the future of communication. They are the present. However, given the flexibility of use and the support provided by the social networks, as well as the characteristics of the Web 2.0, they could define future trends in communication (Díaz-Noci, 2010: 566.). In the past 25 years, the traditional media have suffered important changes, particularly technological ones. But of all these changes, the rise of the Internet in the late 20th century is the most outstanding transformation, as it has become the most-frequently used medium and in a short time has come to be perceived as another ‘traditional’ medium (Fumero and García, 2008).
While social networks can be considered to be newly created applications, recent studies show that apart from allowing the interaction between people, companies, institutions, and brands, social networks are already being used by information professionals (Arroyo-Vázquez, 2008).
Today, social networks have united millions of people around the world, particularly thanks to the proliferation of the Internet and wireless connections in most of the world, and this has largely influenced the increased online interaction (Fumero and García, 2008). These circumstances have led to the consolidation of the Web 2.0 or social network, which is widely understood as the best designed and imagined structure to create, share, and manage a diversity of online content, of personal and/or professional character. The social networks are conceived as “the epitome of a phenomenon that has already transcended the postmodern rhetoric of the change that it created” (Fumero and García, 2008: 57).
This has led to the gradual the enhancement of social networks. The better understand the history of this social phenomenon, here is a chronology of the first social networks that initiated this online phenomenon:
At the beginning, “such sites as Facebook, Friendster and LinkedIn offered new forms and ways to establish, maintain and cultivate social relations. The popularity of these sites, especially among young people, seems to be affecting the way in which users use these applications” (Cachia, 2008: 4). In other words, the popularity and success of the social networks has been possible thanks to personal relationships.
Initially, users representing companies, organizations or institutions had some reservations to join the social networks. However, they soon began to appreciate the importance and benefits of the social networks. Such an example is the case of the media, which were exploited as sources of information by the social networks (Campos, 2008). However, now there is mutual reciprocity and use (Rodriguez, Herrero and Sánchez, 2010: 195). This idea can also be applied to another large number of virtual realities.
RLCS (http://www.revistalatinacs.org/) is an open scientific multi-university publishing project for academic dissemination and collaboration, created and directed since 1998 by José-Manuel de-Pablos-Coello. In February 2010 the journal created its page on Facebook , and shortly in Twitter .
The social networks represent a new and very significant space to establish horizontal relationships with the public, but their impacts and contributions to the objectives of the user need to be measured. To this end, we analysed the traffic to RLCS’s website during 2010 and compared it with the number of followers/friends that the journal accumulated in its space in the social networks. Clearly, the main objective of RLCS was to increase its visibility by inviting the users of the social networks Facebook and Twitter.
2. Key concepts
2.1. The social networks Facebook and Twitter
Facebook emerged in February 2004 as a free online social network, created by the American Mark Zuckerberg. At first, the site was exclusive for Harvard students, but it later acquired a global dimension and today has accumulated approximately 500 million of active users.
Facebook users create profiles that often contain photos and lists of personal interests. Users can exchange private and public messages among themselves. In the profiles pages, which have identification tabs, there is an uninterrupted flow of information which is created, deconstructed, and recreate by the content shared on Facebook (Arroyo-Vázquez, 2009). Meanwhile, Twitter is a micro-blogging website that allows users to send and read micro text entries or tweets, of no more than 140 characters.
2.1.1. The figure of the Community Manager
According to the Spanish Association of Community Managers  (2011), a community manager is:
Obviously this definition refers to “companies” but it can also be applied to any other entities that are not necessarily profit-oriented, such as the journal under study. It is important to note that the figure of the community manager emerged as a result of “the introduction in society of Web 2.0 spaces and their use by advertisers as part of their business strategies” (Castelló, 2010: 78).
2.2. Scientific journals, social networks, and impact factor
Internet users’ fusion of the media and the social networks have become an implicit composition, because there is a significant growth, as well as a genuine interest in using such networks from both the native digital users (Cerezo, 2008), and the so-called immigrant digital users.
Currently both types of users converge with the same goal: to plunge into the social networks. On this point, Campos (2008: 7) considers that the “social networks are a new and attractive channel that the brands want to use to revive their weak branding: to listen, segment, talk, mobilize, help and engage potential customers in order to turn them into loyal users”. All this is because, ultimately, the media should develop various strategies of promotion within these networks.
In this sense, the objective continues to be based on the need to gain presence on the network, even within the heterogeneity of the population which, as Flores (2009) rightly points out, are in the end potential consumers.
The previous reasons allow us to deduce the value that the social networks currently have in the professional fields of information (Arroyo-Vázquez, 2009), and for this reason the fusion of social and scientific information has a direct impact on online academic journals, such as RLCS.
While its presence in social networks can be related to strategies of notoriety, collaboration and dissemination; the main objective is to improve the “Impact Factor”, which is the bibliometric index most frequently used by this type of media. It helps to assess the relative importance of a journal, especially when compared to others within the same field.
The impact factor is not an evaluation tool for individual articles (and by extension, of authors), which are evaluated with such databases as the Arts & Humanities Index, Science Citation Index Expanded, and Social Sciences Citation Index (all three from the Institute for Scientific Information), and Google Scholar, which allows, among other things, to know the number of citations a given article has received (Moed, 2005; IE, 2009).
The Institute for Scientific Information  publishes the impact factor of many journals through the Journal Citation Reports (JCR), which has two editions: Sciences and Social Sciences. The number of indexed journals is large (over 7,000 titles). However, there is a shortage of journals written in Spanish, and a low presence of publications in the area of Humanities, to mention one.
The JCR impact factor is the one currently recognised by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science (MEC, according to its initials in Spanish). Thus, aware of the JCR’s importance in the evaluation of scientific productivity, the MEC has strived to support and generate similar initiatives to establish the Impact Factor of Spanish publications, as shown below:
- IN-recs (Impact Factor of the Spanish Journals of Social Sciences), edited by the Evaluation of Science and Scientific Communication (EC3) research group, of the Department of Library Science and Documentation of the University of Granada.- RESH (Spanish Journals of Social Sciences and Humanities: Integral assessment and citation index), which is edited by the former Centre for Scientific Information and Documentation (CINDOC), which is currently known as the Centre of Social and Human Sciences (CCHS), which is part of the Higher Council of Scientific Research (CSIC) (IE, 2009).
Ultimately, one of the main indicators of the quality of the information published by journals is the citation of articles, as this determines whether the journals are only being read or whether they are actually influencing future research (Porcel, Castellano, Valderrama, Aleixandre and Choren, 2003).
2.2.1. RLCS, generating research lines
The Revista Latina de Comunicación Social (RLCS) was established online by its founder and current editor, José Manuel de Pablos, in 1998. The viability of the entity from which the journal emanated, Laboratorio de Tecnologías de la Información y Nuevos Análisis de Comunicación (Laboratory of Information Technologies and New analysis of Communication), consolidated it as a pure online publication, arbitrated and indexed in the relevant databases of the area.
The creation of RLCS was endorsed by the Faculty and the Department Information Sciences of the University of La Laguna, Spain. To this day, the journal has accumulated fourteen years of experience in the online dissemination of scientific communication.
Aware of the importance of providing elements for decision-making, RLCS has actively participated as an object of study in various investigations which are understood as processes of introspection and self-assessment. Such is the case of the content analysis performed by Raymond Colle (2009) to mark the journal’s 11th anniversary (2008). The results revealed that during its first 11 years the journal predominantly published articles related to the study of the press, journalism, television and the new digital technologies (Internet) as well as a series of articles related to the graphic expression (Colle, 2009).
In 2010 another scholar examined the RLCS. This time the analysis focused on the communication processes of 878 articles published from January 1998 to December 2009, and particularly in the identification of the gender, academic degree, nationality, co-authorship, and institutional affiliation of1,047 authors. The results highlighted the position of RLCS in Latin America, particularly in such countries as Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, Venezuela and Chile (López-Ornelas, 2010).
In 2011 the research on RLCS continues to be consolidated, since the communication between the scientific journal and its users is now under study. In particular, this article analyses the scientific-social alliance originated by the incorporation of RLCS to the Facebook phenomenon, which is understood as a social medium of communication equipped with tools that facilitate and develop the involvement of users in the generation of online content (Flores, 2009).
2.2.2. Information on the object of study
RLCS is published annually and is included in the major academic databases, including: REDALyC (Autonomous University of the State of Mexico); Fuente Academica (multidisciplinary base -EBSCO, USA); Communication & Mass Media Index (specialized base -EBSCO, USA); Sociological abstracts (specialized base -ProQuest, San Diego, USA); DIALNET (abstracts and table of contents database- University of La Rioja); Directory of Open Access Journals, DOAJ (abstracts and table of contents database -Lund University, Sweden); LATINDEX – Catálogo (UNAM, National Autonomous University of Mexico); e-Revistas (CINDOC - CSIC); ULRICH’S (abstracts and table of contents database); and Genamics JournalSeek (New Jersey, USA); Cengage Gale (Michigan, USA).
Accordingly, RLCS fully meets the quality criteria of the regional online information system for scientific journals of Latin America, the Caribbean, Spain and Portugal (Latindex) . It also uses external evaluators and since 2006 is a source journal at the IN-RECS, where it has achieved the best impact factor figures since 2008 :
When RLCS decided to join the social networks (Facebook, in 15 February, 2010), other journals of communication had already pages in the network, some with a significant number of users and activity (see Figure 1, which was created on 15 February, based on a random sample of journals that appeared on Facebook’s search engine under the name of “journals of communication”). This year, the activity in Facebook has produced significant changes in the activity and the traffic of RLCS’s website, which this article will attempt to address.
Figure 1: Academic journals of communication in Facebook (15-2-2010)
Figure 2: RLCS on Facebook
Figure 3: RLCS on Twitter
3. Objectives and methodology
This research aims to identify and analyse the advantages and disadvantages that an online academic journal can obtain from using social networks like Facebook and Twitter. However, the analysis is mostly focused on the information generated by the incorporation of RLCS to Facebook.
Three hypotheses were used as guides in this research:
- Hypothesis 1. The incorporation of academic journals into a social network involves more positive than negative aspects.
- Hypothesis 2. The incorporation of RLCS into the social networks Facebook and Twitter has provoked increased user traffic towards RLCS’s website.- Hypothesis 3. The incorporation of RLCS into the social networks Facebook and Twitter has allowed the existence of a new set of users and modes of interaction.
3.1 Methodological design
We considered quantitative techniques were the most appropriate to address our object of study, and used them in three phases: 1) registration of statistic data, 2) analysis of the data, and 3) obtaining of results, which involved several steps that are described later.
1st phase: Registration of statistical data
4. Results and discussion
4.1. Positive and negative aspects of RLCS’s incorporation to the social networks
We analysed the evolution of the number of visits (figure 4) and viewed pages (figure 5) in RLCS’s website from 1 May 2009  to 28 February 2011:
Then, in order to identify the influence of RLCS’s incorporation to the social networks, we compared the data from 2009 and 2010, taking into account the following aspects:
- RLCS joined Facebook in February 2010.- The statistical data on the activity of the website is only available from May 2009 onwards, so it is not possible to analyse three months: February, March and April 2009.
Figure 4: Number of visits to RLCS’s website
Figure 5: Number of pageviews in RLCS’s website
Figure 6 shows the comparison of the number of visits received in 2009 and 2010; while figure 7 presents the comparison of the number of pages viewed during the same period.
Figure N ° 6: Comparison of visits obtained in 2009 and 2010
Figure 7: Comparison of page views obtained in 2009 and 2010
The steady increase in the number of visits and pageviews is clear. However, it should be noted that apart from RLCS’s incorporation to the social networks, other significant events may have influenced this increase: in September, October and November the journal promoted the II International Congress of Social Communication -held in December 2010-, which encouraged the visits of non-regular visitors. Another event was the publication of the impact factor for 2009 in the area of communication, on 18 October, 2010, in its provisional version, which showed that for the first time the RLCS had reached an impact factor above 1.
None of the 260 indexed journals of Judicial Sciences reached 1, and of the 620 journals of Social Sciences only four journals reached it, in the following order (López-Ornelas, 2010: 1):
At the same time, if we compare (figure 8) the evolution of the unique visits to the Facebook page from May to December 2010 (period with complete data) with the difference between the unique visits to RLCS’s website in 2009 and 2010, we can see clearly that the increase (which can be seen in the third column of differences) is related to RLCS’s activity in the social network.
Figure 8: Comparison of RLCS’s website user traffic (unique visits)
When we add the observations of the journal’s spaces on Facebook and Twitter (where it had 145 followers by 6 March, 2011) to the statistical data we obtain a set of positive and negative aspects.
Listing in details the advantages and disadvantages that social networks are generating in the dissemination of scientific knowledge as part of the visibility strategies of academic journals is definitively a subject on its own, and it is necessary to emphasize some of them. However, before that it is essential to acknowledge that it is complex to measureaccurately the benefits that RLCS gained from joining Facebook, because, as already mentioned, other events were also involved in the increase in visits in the months examined in this study.
Advantages: It seems necessary to refer to the numbers of users to highlight the advantages that the social networks are providing to the scientific dissemination. However, a very important fact -qualitatively speaking- is that the users of RLCS are ceasing to be anonymous and they are engaging in direct communication (Arroyo-Vázquez, 2008).
Another important point is that now Facebook has typified the profile of its users in 22 categories, in which education ranks fifth in importance (Facebook, 2009, cited in Caldevilla, 2010).
In this sense, RLCS has learned to take advantage from social networks like Facebook. An example of this success is the fact that RLCS established a direct visibility by gaining -as of 6 March 2011- 1,569 users who are eager to receive the news generated by RLCS, and have the control to decide which types of news stories they want to receive, highlight, and share (Caldevilla, 2010: 56).For this reason it could be deduced that the people that has subscribed to RLCS’ Facebook page are ‘viable readers’.
The previous confirms appropriately the first hypothesis and confirms to some extent the second one, due to the absence of viable elements to affirm that RLCS’s incorporation to social networks provoked a greater traffic of users to its own website. Finally, the same data supports the third hypothesis, since the use of social networks has made possible to gain a new set of users and modes for interaction (Arroyo-Vázquez, 2007, 2008; Caldevilla, 2010; Ruiz et al., 2010).
Disadvantages: the previous section has established that since few years ago the social networks have been used for professional purposes (Arroyo-Vázquez, 2009: 147), which involves a process of responsibility that goes beyond the social realm. In this sense, we considered that the main disadvantage of the social networks is not necessarily centred on the additional work given to the editor of a publication -who is now known as a social media editor- (Flores, 2009: 80), but instead that most disadvantages largely depend on users’ intentions and ethical-moral criteria (Caldevilla, 2010: 55).
4.2. Increased user traffic towards RLCS’s website
It is clear that the social networks are channels that provide visibility to those that join them, and are oriented, in addition to the social aspect, increasingly to the establishment of professional networking (Arroyo-Vázquez, 2008).
The following figure shows that RLCS is not the only journal that started to incorporate the new strategies of visibility. Figure 9 lists some Facebook pages of other communication journals that appeared after searching for “journals of communication” in Facebook’s search engine on 15 February.
Figure 9: Comparison of users in communication journals’ Facebook pages
In the case of RLCS, its use of the social networks has generated a positive impact on the number of visits to its website. The obtained data make it clear (see figures 10 and 11).
Figure 10: Comparison of unique visits to RLCS’s website
Figure 11: Comparison of pageviews in RLCS’s website
4.3. New users and modes of interaction
The discussion of these subjects gives greater weight to the positive aspects, which would prevail over the negative. The advantages are virtually irrefutable, since they are backed up by statistical data and observation. The disadvantages do not exist per se, but rather they are questions about the possible, present or future, discredit from users, which can only be resolved with the passage of time.
Without a doubt, RLCS’s presence in the social networks enables the access and interaction of different users, who otherwise had not visited the journal through its traditional channel (its own website). RLCS’s activity especially in Facebook, but also in Twitter, basically involves the publication of links to new articles or editorial developments. The journals’ Facebook page is simultaneously accessed by users of different ages, sex (figure 12), from countries and cities, and using different languages (figure 13).
Figure 12: Sex and age of people using RLCS’s Facebook page
The band of 24-35 year-olds is the one interacting the most with RLCS through Facebook (40%), and nearly two thirds of these users are women. By 6 March, 2011, RLCS’s Facebook page had 1,569 users, from 19 countries (more than 60% from Spain and Argentina), and using 14 different languages or dialects (although 92% of users use the Spanish language).
Figure 13: Countries, cities, and languages of RLCS’s Facebook users
5. Final considerations
The rise of social networks has enabled organizations to find localized mass audiences. “They are online spaces where people publish and share all kinds of professional and personal information with other people, who are known or total strangers” (Celaya, 2008: 91), without neglecting the strength of direct interaction.
In the case under study, we can conclude that, based on the number of visits to RLCS’s institutional website, there are ups and downs and that the highest peaks are reached in the last two months under analysis, as a result of the website’s promotion of the annual Congress organised by RLCS. In contrast, the months with lowest number of visits are July and August, 2009, and August 2010, which are the summer months in Europe. The number of pageviews follows a very similar trend.
Comparing the eight months analysed (May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December) in 2009 and 2010, we can notice a greater number of visits and pageviews. It is clear that the presence of RLCS in the social networks has influenced this increase, although we do not know to what extent. The comparison also shows a continuous exponential growth in the number of Facebook followers.
In terms of percentages, the comparison of the number of visits during these months shows considerable increases, ranging from 18% to over 60%, which clearly important. The same trend occurs with the number of pageviews, with important increases over 17%.
It is worth noting that interrelationships increasingly occur among the various social networks, like the ones studied here. For instance, one of the many applications created by Facebook allows automatically republishing any content/text posted the Facebook wall on the Twitter page.
We concluded that the impact of RLCS on its public has increased since it joined the social networks, although we cannot measure exactly the extent of the influence, or to establish what other media or elements have also influenced these increases in visits and pageviews. Moreover, the incorporation of RLCS to the social networks has attracted other age segments that were not part of the target audience of RLCS’s website.
We have yet to verify through the upcoming impact factor assessments whether RLCS’s increased online activity will result in a greater number of citations.
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