A Virtual Application Cycle: Social Media Use by Plastic Surgery Residency Programs
Eric Shiah, BA, Abra H. Shen, SB, Elizabeth Laikhter, BA, Carly D. Comer, MD, Samuel M. Manstein, MD, Samuel J. Lin, MD, MBA
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
Background: In response to the cancellation of away rotations and shift to virtual interviews during the COVID-19 pandemic, residency programs have pursued other methods of sharing program details, most notably through social media. This study aimed to evaluate social media utilization in the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic by plastic surgery (PRS) residency programs.
Methods: An updated list of PRS residency programs was obtained from the American Council of Academic Plastic Surgeons (ACAPS) website. Electronic searches for residency program social media accounts were conducted directly through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Program websites were also reviewed for social media account links, and followers of identified accounts were screened. For each account, number of followers, number following, total posts, and posts since March 1, 2020 were extracted. Social media content was further categorized as informational, social, operative, research, self-promotional, guest lecture, education, or other. Data was analyzed using Spearman’s correlation coefficient (rs) and Kruskal-Wallis test (H).
Results: Since March 1, 2020, 17 Instagram, 5 Twitter, and 3 Facebook accounts have been created by PRS residency programs. Out of 100 programs, 86 now have Instagram accounts, 37 have Twitter accounts, and 36 have Facebook accounts. A total of 69 programs participated in the ACAPS Meet-and-Greet, and 40 programs held additional virtual informational sessions. Among PRS residency programs, Instagram was the most widely used and followed (1,720 posts, 1,235.7±735.9 followers) compared to Twitter (722 Tweets, 325.6±451.0 followers) and Facebook (430 posts, 338.3±363.3 followers). Although the majority of content was informational (45.1%) across all platforms, Instagram contained more social (21%), Twitter contained more research (21%), and Facebook contained more self-promotional content (25%). On average, integrated-only programs posted more on Instagram (21.5±15.1) than independent-only (9.4±8.5) programs (H = 6.10, p = 0.03). Stratification of programs by geographic region revealed no statistically significant differences between mean number of followers or posts.
Conclusions: PRS residency programs have demonstrated incorporation of social media into their residency recruitment strategies. Instagram has the greatest reach and is the most widely used compared to Twitter and Facebook. Effective utilization of social media may require different content sharing strategies that are specific to each platform and its unique target audience. Programs that were successful in maintaining a strong presence on social media capitalized on newer sharing capabilities such as video posts and live-streams. PRS residency programs will likely continue to increase and diversify their posts to effectively engage with future applicants.
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