Social media use at the American College of Surgeons (ACS) has come a long way in the past four years. In addition to using public platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube to get its message out, the College launched ACS Communities last summer so that members can now interact with the College and each other both publicly and privately.
Of the more than 10,000 people who have “liked” the College’s Facebook page, 63 percent are men and 37 percent are women. More than 3,300 of the College’s followers live in the U.S.; the next biggest countries in terms of people who like the College’s Facebook page are Egypt (826), Mexico (813), Pakistan (562), and Brazil (555). The cities with the most followers are Cairo, Egypt (367); Mexico City, Mexico (301); and Lahore, Pakistan (210). At press time, the College’s most engaging post—one that featured 100 reasons to join the College—reached more than 90,000 people, and more than 1,900 people liked, shared, or commented on that posting. (See Table 1.)
Twitter, however, remains the College’s most active social media outlet, especially during the College’s annual Clinical Congress. At last year’s conference, the official event hashtag, #ACSCC14, received more than 13 million impressions, surpassing the previous year by more than 3 million impressions.*
Conference presenters and attendees tweeted announcements of upcoming presentations and room locations, as well as personal observations regarding upcoming sessions. Many attendees tweeted live quotes and comments from the presentations, particularly about controversial and stimulating topics. In terms of year-round Twitter use, the College’s social media team receives more tweet requests from staff than ever, as ACS employees have increasingly come to view Twitter as a way to get their messages out more quickly to the nearly 20,000 people and organizations that follow the College.
Table 1. ACS social media groups
The College also uses YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+ with greater frequency. On LinkedIn, the College posts videos of staff members on its careers page to let job seekers know firsthand what it’s like to work at the College. In early 2015, the College began using promoted posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to tout the many reasons why becoming a member of the ACS benefits a surgical career. (See Figure 1.)
Figure 1. Number of ACS Followers vs. Tweets, August 18, 2014–February 18, 2015
ACS Communities, the College’s state-of-the-art online community platform, launched in July 2014, when its first community became available to members. As of February 2015, the platform had grown to 92 communities covering a variety of member surgeon interest areas. Of these, 51 communities are open, meaning that any member of the College may join. (Closed communities exist primarily to provide online work forums for ACS leadership groups, such as the Board of Governors and the Advisory Councils.) ACS Governor Tyler Hughes, MD, FACS, serves as the Medical Editor of ACS Communities.
The number of surgeons who use ACS Communities has increased, as well. In terms of website pages viewed, number of items recommended by visitors, and unique contributors, January was the biggest month yet for the platform. The site has already received more than 560,000 pages views since the first community launched.
The substantial number of posts by busy practicing surgeons and leaders of the College indicates that members have much to discuss with each other. Topics vary from case discussions to Maintenance of Certification to electronic medical records to issues regarding the everyday practice of surgery. Recent hot topics include physician burnout (multiple communities), contract negotiation (Young Fellows), axillary dissection (Breast Surgery), career detours (Women Surgeons), centers of excellence and redo for anastomotic stricture (Colon and Rectal Surgery), and when to operate for chronic abdominal pain (Rural Surgery). To search for information on any topic, simply log in to ACS Communities and use the search box on the home page. Results can be sorted alphabetically, by date, or by relevance.
As an example of how ACS Communities may harness the power of the collective intelligence among members of the College, the Colon and Rectal Surgery community features “Ask the Expert” online discussions, hosted by administrators Scott Steele, MD, FACS, and Joshua Bleier, MD, FACS. These scheduled discussions have included experts on such topics as management of complicated colonic disease, surgical approaches to colon cancer, coding, hereditary colorectal cancer syndromes, and what to do when complications occur. Participants adjust their settings to receive real-time messages during the discussions so that it becomes an online chat, after which they can return settings to receive daily digests if they prefer. Those who are unable to participate live can view transcripts posted in the community’s resource library, where videos, articles, and other useful information also may be found. (See Tables 2–3 and Figures 2–4.)
Table 2. 10 highest-posting open communities to date
Table 3. 10 highest-posting open communities*
Figure 2. Communities Page views per month (aggregate)
Figure 3. Recommended content items for Communities
Figure 4. Number of unique communities posters (aggregate)
ACS Communities, which can be accessed through the facs.org home page or directly by visiting acscommunities.facs.org, provides an environment in which ACS members can not only connect, engage, and share critical information and best practices in real time, but also ask for advice, share experiences, exchange photos and videos, and build professional relationships.
*“Impressions” is a metric for how many times a hashtag appears in users’ tweet streams. Total impressions are computed by multiplying the number of tweets per participant by the number of followers that participant currently has. This computation is done for all participants in a specific time period and then the numbers are added up.