Social media has become a popular source of health information for patients. This study aimed to characterize the top-performing ophthalmologic posts on a large social media platform to better understand the spread of ophthalmic information via social media.
This was a web-based study that searched for ophthalmology-related posts on Instagram, with subjects being users who posted ophthalmic content. A list of 36 ophthalmology-related hashtags, including the most common diagnoses and procedures identified from the IRIS Registry, was queried. For each hashtag, data were collected for “Top 9 posts” (as ranked by Instagram’s engagement-based algorithm) at three different time points. Posts were analyzed for the poster’s background, credentials, post format, content, caption length, and engagement level.
Of the top-performing posts analyzed (n = 972), the most frequent post format was a photo (82.2%), followed by video (8.8%) and graphic (8.4%). Ophthalmologists (35.8%) authored the highest number of posts, followed by patients (27.1%), optometrists (20.1%), and organizations (12.7%). The highest average engagement level ratios (ELRs) belonged to ophthalmologists-in-training (0.096), followed by patients (0.084), optometrists (0.070), all ophthalmologists (0.067) and organizations (0.051); p < 0.001. The most engaging type of content was self-promotional (0.118) and personal experience-related (0.091); educational content was the least engaging (0.059) even though it comprised the majority of posts (56%); (p < 0.001). Characteristics that predicted the highest ELRs (reaching 80th percentile) were captions and/or images that featured personal experiences (3.335 OR), whitecoats (3.259), and those authored by ophthalmologist trainees (3.172); (p < 0.01). The least engaging were those featuring fundus photos (0.281), educational content (0.359), and authored by organizations (0.428); (p < 0.05).
The majority of ophthalmologic content on Instagram is authored by non-ophthalmologists, with educational content being the least engaging. Practicing ophthalmologists have an opportunity to reach more patients through social media by incorporating specific features known to drive post engagement and reach.
Social media has become a popular source of health information for patients. Our study demonstrates that the majority of ophthalmology content on Instagram is authored by non- ophthalmologists, with educational content being the least engaging. Practicing ophthalmologists have an opportunity to reach a wider audience through social media by incorporating specific features known to drive post engagement and reach.

© 2022 Huang et al.