Increasing in popularity, social media provides powerful marketing and networking tools for private practice plastic surgeons. The authors sought to examine social media utilization by academic plastic surgery training programs.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were queried for plastic surgery training program, program director, and chief/chair accounts. Training program posts were categorized as educational, operative, social, informational, self-promotional, visiting lecturer, research-related, and other. Factors influencing total number of followers were analyzed including number of accounts followed, frequency, total number, and types of posts as well as duration of account. Other variables included geographic location, 2018 to 2019 Doximity residency ranking, and US News and World Report rankings of affiliated hospital systems and medical schools. Social media accounts were analyzed using Kruskal-Wallis, Wilcoxon rank sum, and regression analysis.
Facebook is the most popular social media platform among chiefs/chairs (34, 35.7%), followed by Instagram (20, 21.1%) and Twitter (19, 20.0%). Facebook is used more by program directors (31, 32.6%) followed by Instagram (22, 23.1%) and Twitter (15, 15.7%). The majority of Facebook and Twitter leadership accounts are for personal use (62%-67%), whereas Twitter is used primarily for professional purposes (60%-84%). Training program social media use is rising, with Instagram and Twitter presence growing at exponential rates (R = 0.97 and 0.97, respectively). Of 95 training programs evaluated, 54 (56.8%) have Instagram accounts, 29 (30.5%) have Facebook accounts, and 27 (28.4%) have Twitter accounts. Most training programs using social media have 2 or more accounts (37, 67.3%). West coast programs have more Instagram followers than other geographic regions, significantly more than Southern programs (P = 0.05). Program accounts with more followers are affiliated with top-ranked hospitals (P = 0.0042) or top-ranked Doximity training programs (P = 0.02).
Similar to its adoption by private practice plastic surgery, social media use in academic plastic surgery is growing exponentially. Now, over half of residency programs have Instagram accounts. Program leaders are using Facebook and Instagram primarily for personal use and Twitter for professional use. Programs affiliated with a top-ranked hospital or ranked highly by Doximity have more followers on social media.