5 Steps to Launch an Instagram Account for Your Plastic Surgery Residency Program

Joseph M. Firriolo, MD (@jomarkf)
Plastic Surgery Resident
The University of California, DavisDivision of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (@ucdavisplasticsurgery)

Alexander H. Sun, MD (@alexsunmd)
Plastic Surgery Resident
The Johns Hopkins Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery


In recent months, more and more Plastic Surgery residency programs have been establishing their Instagram presence. Instagram is a photo- and video-sharing social media platform, with increasing engagement compared to other platforms. Starting an account could be an important step for you or your residency program. Below are some key points for programs that are starting out!

1. Create an Account

  • Many institutions have strict regulations on social media, so it is important to first check with your institution about branding and content requirements. There will be different rules on what kind of content is allowable, and what sort of language needs to be included in posts in order to protect the institution.
  • In order to create a professional account on Instagram, it must be linked to a Facebook page. This can be done using the Department’s or Division’s Facebook account, or any individual can create a Facebook page. The page does not need to be active (it can stay invisible).
  • Choose an account name. Keep it short and intuitive.
  • Add a profile photo, biography, website link, and contact information (an email address).

2. Create Content

  • Determine the goals and audience of your account. The audience can range from the lay public, pre-health or professional students, prospective residents, or professionals within the field of Plastic Surgery. This will guide the types of post you will make.
    • Academic posts: research updates (e.g. new publications or presentations), news briefings regarding your program or faculty/residents
    • Operative posts: includes before/after photos or other informative content about procedures (e.g. animations). Please follow your institutional guidelines prior to making this type of post.
    • Social posts: photos from social and educational events, conference attendance, workshops, visiting professors, faculty or resident spotlights.
  • Posts will stay on your page (unless you choose to delete them), while Stories are temporary and last for 24 hours. However, you can go into your Stories archive and highlight past stories under a specific category (e.g. chronicling Stories from a conference, or highlighting a reel of social events).
  • Remember that any content involving patients must follow your institutional guidelines and may require specific consent forms.

3. Maintain your Account

  • Find individuals who can assist with maintaining the account and producing content. Having multiple residents involved can help the account better capture all the events in the Division/Department, which can be useful for prospective residents.
  • If necessary, you can create a calendar with coresidents to maintain a steady stream of content.
  • Having a Business profile allows you to schedule single-image posts.

4. Study Analytics

  • A Business profile also records analytics, which allows you to better understand your audience.
  • Depending on your audience, there may be a specific time that is the best time to post.
  • Certain posts may be better received than others (photos of residents/faculty vs. procedural or before/after photos, etc.).

5. Engagement

  • Start following other Plastic Surgery accounts, including faculty and residents from your own institution and other institutions, other programs, societies, and journals (@prsjournal and @prsglobalopen).
  • Use appropriate hashtags. Hashtags should be specific but also common enough in order to better attract your target audience. For example, #craniosynostosis (tagged in 18,000 posts) would be higher-yield than #cranioplasty (<1,000 posts).
  • Tag other accounts, including individuals and institutions. You can tag in the caption or in the photo itself. You can also tag in stories.
  • Like and comment on posts from other accounts, and respond to comments on your own posts. Posts that receive likes and comments are boosted up by Instagram to reach a wider audience.

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