Jul 09 2013

Why the TSA Is Using Instagram

The Transportation Security Administration on the cutting edge of social media with a new Instagram account.

Social media is a great way to engage a large audience. So much so, that it seems like everyone is on Facebook or Twitter these days. But what is the best method for tapping into the shock and awe that can cause issues to go viral — in a good way?

Images are often the most effective way to garner this kind of reaction. Instagram, the image-based social media platform, is extremely popular among tech-savvy citizens for that exact reason.

In a stroke of genius (or possible folly?), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently joined Instagram to display confiscated items from screening locations and airports around the country.

The images, coupled with the long-standing TSA blog, serve to “facilitate an ongoing dialogue on innovations in security, technology and the checkpoint screening process.”

By using popular social media tools, the TSA hopes to reach more people and spread the word: If you don’t want your weapon confiscated, leave it at home. In fact, one of the most astounding revelations from the TSA’s visual representation is how many people still attempt to board airplanes with firearms.

The approach is clearly working, because the TSA Instagram stream has only posted 11 photos, yet it already has over 40,000 followers. The images range from fireworks to brass knuckles, and all of the items are sure to cause a collective gasp.

The TSA has been plagued by accusations of privacy infringement, and public commentary has kept the issue from being swept under the carpet. Airline passengers have taken to social media to vent their frustrations over disruptive pat downs and improper behavior by some agents.

The move to more transparent communication may help counterbalance public relations frustrations. However, public shaming of rule violators may only further prove the antagonistic nature of this particular agency.

So far, the TSA has retained a sense of humor by using an abundance of hashtags and filters. How effective will they be at spreading air travel rules and regulations in this way? Only time will tell.