Background: The growth of the social media platform Twitter has prompted many to consider its potential as an educational tool. Little is known about how surgery training programs are utilizing this resource and whether this platform can provide educational content effectively. We sought to determine national utilization of Twitter by departments of surgery in the United States and evaluate if educationally driven content heightened engagement with the Twitter followers.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of social media presence for all Accreditation Council for Graduation Medical Education accredited general surgery training programs between October 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016. Each tweet was characterized as either promotional or educational. Metrics related to account engagement, including impressions (number of times a tweet is seen) and retweets (number of times a tweet is shared), were compared. These results were compared against a single departmental account focused primarily on educational content.
Results: Thirty-two departmental Twitter accounts were identified from the 272 programs approached associated with accredited general surgery training programs. Training programs posted a median of 1.0 unique tweets (interquartile range: 0.6-2.3) per week. Tweets were primarily promotional (81% of posts) and generated marginal engagement with followers (3.4 likes/tweet; 1.5 retweets/tweet). In contrast, a single, resident-run departmental account at our institution (University of Michigan) focused on educational content generated consistent, educational content (19.6 unique tweets/week, 48% of which were educational), which resulted in increased engagement with followers (11.4 likes/tweet; 5.9 retweets/tweet) compared to other accounts.
Conclusion: Though Twitter is being widely adopted widely by departments of surgery, it is primarily utilized for promotional content. Use of educational content may improve engagement from followers.
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