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Plastic Surgery Research Council

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How A Two-letter Difference Results In Two Different Instagram Communities: #surgery Versus #surgeon As A Case Demonstration Of The Importance Of Hashtags
Helen Xun, BS, Waverley He, BS, Chao Long, MD, Carisa Cooney, MPH, Kristen P. Broderick, MD.
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.

PURPOSE: Instagram is a social media platform currently featuring over 100 million active users in the United States. Plastic surgeons have a larger proportional presence on Instagram compared to other social media platforms, and often create "professional profiles" for patient recruitment, education, or networking. Hashtags are keyword phrases that highlight and facilitate searching for public posts, improve profile visibility, and broaden community outreach. Instagram now limits users to 30 hashtags per post. In response to this restriction, many companies have advertised their services to optimize users' hashtag sets and thereby maximize exposure. However, none of these tools are evidence supported. Our study characterizes the communities encompassed by two similar hashtags, #surgeRY (3,600,000 posts) and #surgeON (878,000 posts) to identify whether there are differences between the hashtags, and the users associated with these hashtags.
METHODS: The hashtags #surgery and #surgeon were searched on Instagram, and the "Top" 100 posts associated with each hashtag at a single time point were analyzed . The posts were classified as work and clinical, educational, networking, lifestyle, advocacy, or inspirational and humorous. Profiles associated with the posts were identified, and unique accounts were analyzed. For each unique account, the type of account holder, type of profile, and gender of poster were collected.
RESULTS: We identified 94 unique users associated with #surgeRY and 61 unique users associated with #surgeON. The #surgeRY community had more accounts run by patients (p<0.0001), interest groups (p<0.01) and females (p<0.0001) (Table 1). Interestingly, #surgeRY was more associated with work and clinical-related photographs (p<0.005), and account holders tended to be affiliated with academic settings (p<0.0005). The #surgeON community had more accounts belonging to medical professionals (p<0.05), particularly attendings (<0.0001), and fewer female-run accounts (p<0.0001), and had posts more associated with networking (p<0.05) and inspiration or humor (p<0.0001).
CONCLUSION: We demonstrate that the hashtags #surgeRY and #surgeON results in two different communities. #surgery is associated with a patient community, and is predominantly utilized by medical professionals for patient education and awareness. Meanwhile, #surgeON is associated with a more professional networking environment among medical professionals with higher levels of training, utilized for networking and mentorship. Our findings highlight that small nuances in hashtags result in large changes in community presence and visibility. Thus we advise physicians and surgeons to carefully select the hashtags they use while posting content and creating their own brands on Instagram. Furthermore, we propose the usage of standardized methodologies to study hashtags to generate optimized, personalized hashtag lists for plastic surgeons tailored to their target audience, and goals for their social media accounts.


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