Utilizing social media is key for any modern day business, and many of us enjoy and benefit from using social media in our daily lives. But how can social media presence benefit a government agency like the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)?
Many government organizations have started to engage the public through blogging, tweeting, and posting on social media. The TSA took its first steps in its social media strategy with a “blog team,” which posts travel tips and a weekly review of confiscated items to their website and Twitter.
On June 27, the TSA blog team officially joined Instagram, the growing picture-sharing community with over 80 million users. Rather than the standard posts of food pics, travel snapshots, “selfies,” and photos with friends, the TSA photo stream on Instagram showcases an array of banned items, from fireworks to grenades, that the TSA has seized from dubious passengers.
For a government agency that is routinely met with hostility from the public, a risky PR move can easily add to the fuel of online hate. If done correctly, however, the group can engage with the public in a way that delivers a compelling statement about what the agency does and why they do it.
Did the TSA’s move to Instagram positively impact users? Or did it leave them with even greater animosity towards the organization? Using our social media analytics platform ForSight, we analyzed over 5,500 posts ranging from July 2, the day Forbes first covered the story of the TSA joining Instagram, to July 10. By utilizing ForSight’s ability to delve beyond basic sentiment, we explored how the public perceived the TSA’s photos and the creation of the TSA’s Instagram account.
On July 2, 99% of users stated that they found the pictures to be funny. In the following days, praise dominated the online conversation about TSA’s Instagram account. However, by July 5, many began to point out that the photos actually scared them, because they were originally unaware of the potential threat other passengers posed.
Overall, 63% of the conversation was centered on the humorous nature of the account. Another 18% went so far as to praise the TSA for transparency, stating that they found the photos interesting or eye-opening and that it was a good PR move.
TSA's official Instagram account is an incredibly clever way to win over some positive PR
— Alex Cherry (@_axcy) July 4, 2013
— BigHas (@hasanthehun) July 2, 2013
Though some poked fun at the group for their overuse of hashtags, less than 1% of posts outwardly criticized the TSA for their decision. The few who were critical mainly accused the organization of wasting time and tax dollars. Some even claimed that the photos were a form of propaganda and that they were trying to brainwash the American people with intimidating images.
A few weeks and over 40,000 Instagram followers later, the TSA’s latest social media stunt has been met with a significant amount of humor, enthusiasm, and appreciation. Users see a more light-hearted side to the no-nonsense security agency. The photos have also led some to admit that they appreciate the organization more, stating that they better understand how the TSA and its agents serve the country. Though they took a risk with this latest PR plan, they’ve succeeded in shedding light on their work in an engaging format.
The underlying goal of any good social media campaign is to engage the audience and inform them as to why that service is a necessary part of their lives. Using ForSight, we are able to analyze the success of these media strategies and what consumers are saying beyond basic sentiment.