Twitter, like the Internet in general, has become a vast source of and resource for health care information. As with other tools on the Internet it also has the potential for misinformation to be distributed. In some cases this is done by accident by those with the best intentions. In other cases it is done on purpose such as when companies promote their products or services while using false accounts they created.
In order to help determine the credibility of tweets containing health-related content I suggest the using the following checklist (adapted from Rains & Karmikel, 2009):
Ultimately it is up to the individual to determine how to use health information they find on Twitter or other Internet sources. For patients anecdotal or experiential information shared by others with the same illness may be considered very credible. Others conducting research may find this a less valuable information source. Conversely a researcher may only be looking for tweets that contain reference to peer-reviewed journal articles whereas patients and their caregivers may have little or no interest in this type of resource.
Rains, S. A., & Karmike, C. D. (2009). Health information-seeking and perceptions of website credibility: Examining Web-use orientation, message characteristics, and structural features of websites. Computers in Human Behavior, 25(2), 544-553.
The altmetric movement is intended to develop new measures of production and contribution in academia. The following article provides a primer for research scholars on what metrics they should consider collecting when participating in various forms of social media.
If you participate on Twitter you should be keeping track of the number of tweets you send, how many times your tweets are replied to, re-tweeted by other users and how many @mentions (tweets that include your Twitter handle) you obtain. ThinkUp is an open source application that allows you to track these metrics as well as other social media tools such as Facebook and Google +. Please read my extensive review about this tool. This service is free.
You should register with a domain shortening service such as bit.ly, which will provide you with an API key that you can enter into applications you use to share links. This will provide a means to keep track of your click-through statistics in one location. Bit.ly records how many times a link you created was clicked on, the referrer and location of the user. Consider registering your own domain name and using it to shorten your tweets as a means of branding. In addition, you can use your custom link on electronic copies of your CV or at your own web site. This will inform you when your links have been clicked on. You should also consider using bit.ly to create links used at your web site, providing you with feedback on which are used the most often. For example, all of the links in this article were created using my custom bit.ly domain. In addition, you can tweet a link to any research study you publish to publicize as well as keep track of how many clicks are obtained. Bit.ly is a free service.
Another tool to measure your tweets is TweetReach. This service allows you to track the reach of your tweets by Twitter handle or tweet. It provides output in formats that can be saved for use elsewhere (Excel, PDF or the option to print or save your output by link). To use these latter features you must sign up for an account but the service is free.
Buffer is a tool that allows you to schedule your tweets in advance. You can also connect Buffer to your bit.ly account so links used can be included in your overall analytics. Although Buffer provides its own measures on click-through counts this can contradict what appears in bit.ly. This service is free but also has paid upgrade options available that provide more detailed analytics.
Google Scholar Citation Profile
You can set up a profile with Google Scholar based on your publication record. The metrics provided by this service include a citation count, h-index and i10-index. When someone searches your name using Google Scholar your profile will appear at the top before any of the citations. This provides a quick way to separate your articles from someone else who has the same name as you.
Google Feedburner for RSS feeds
If you maintain your own web site and use RSS feeds to announce new postings you can also collect statistics on how many times your article is clicked on. Feedburner, recently acquired by Google provides one way to measure this. You enter your RSS feed ULR and a report is generate, which can be saved in CVS format.
Journal article download statistics
Many journals provide statistics on the number of downloads of articles. Keep track of those associated with your publication by visiting the site. For example, BioMed Central (BMC) maintains an access count of the last 30 days, one year and all time for each of your publications.
Other means of contributing to the knowledge base in your field include participating on web-based forums or web sites such as Quora. Quora provides threaded discussions on topics and allows participants to both generate and respond to the question. Other users vote on your responses and points are accrued. If you want another user to answer your question you must “spend” some of your points. Providing a link to your public profile on Quora on your CV will demonstrate another form of contribution to your field.
Paper.li is a free service that curates content and renders it in a web-based format. The focus of my Paper.li is the use of technology in Canadian Healthcare. I have also created a page that appears at my web site. Metrics on the number of times your paper has been shared via Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Linked are available. This service is free.
Twylah is similar to paper.li in that it takes content and displays it in a newspaper format except it uses your Twitter feed. There is an option to create a personalized page. I use tweets.lauraogrady.ca. I also have a Twylah widget at my web site that shows my trending tweets in a condensed magazine layout. It appears in the side bar. This free service does not yet provide metrics but can help increase your tweet reach. If you create a custom link for your Twylah page you can keep track of how many people visit it.
Analytics for your web site
Log file analysis
If you maintain your own web site you can use a variety of tools to capture and analyze its use. One of the most popular applications is Google Analytics. If you are using a content management system such as WordPress there are many plug-ins that will add the code to the pages at your site and produce reports. WordPress also provides a built-in analytic available through its dashboard.
If you have access to the raw log files you could use a shareware log file program or the open source tool Piwik. These tools will provide summaries about what pages of your site are visited most frequently, what countries the visitors come from, how long visitors remain at your site and what search terms are used to reach your site.
All of this information should be included in the annual report you prepare for your department and your tenure application. This will increase awareness of altmetrics and improve our ability to have these efforts “count” as contributions in your field.