One collage on the Transportation Security Administration’s Instagram account features a decomposing corpse being passed through screening at the Atlanta International Airport.
“This crusty ol’chap is actually a prop from the #TexasChainsawMassacre movie,” reads the caption. “He was screened and sent on his jolly way.”
With 10,643 likes (compared to its average of 3,000 likes), the post is TSA’s most popular on Instagram. It perfectly represents the government agency’s tone on the platform: bizarre yet informative and funny.
“We are trying to be professional, but we have a very dry sense of humor at times,” said Bob Burns, social media lead for the TSA. “I choose the best pictures that are not only entertaining but also educational. Sometimes I post quirky photos to keep the conversation going.”
Burns posts one image per day most days (sometimes more if he has really good content). Photos usually feature confiscated items — examples of items passengers have mind-bogglingly tried to get onto planes — including batarangs, ammunition, guns and throwing knives. While his own wheaten terrier dog, Rusty, hasn’t yet made the cut, Burns often posts service canines to the TSA account with the hashtag #DogsOfInstagram.
“A mix of weapons and dogs surprisingly work well,” he said. “Travelers often complain that the lines are too long. But now they understand that it’s because TSA is finding all this stuff. And they know more about what TSA employees are doing. I think Instagram helped us change the conversation.”
Burns set up the TSA Instagram account back in 2013, and it has gained more than 474,000 followers to date. In July of this year, he further started posting screenshots from AskTSA, a customer service program on Twitter and Messenger that was designed to answer a travel question about a certain item. AskTSA takes an average of between 300 and 600 inquiries every day.
Have you ever debated about whether or not you can pack a jar of bees from grandma, or any other types of items? Fret no more! Now you can simply snap a picture and tweet it to @AskTSA or send it via Facebook Messenger and our team will get back to you promptly with an answer. If you’re a regular follower of this account, I’m sure you can think of many situations where it would have behooved somebody to send us a picture first. And that’s not all. Contact us about any TSA related issue or question you might have. We can even help you with TSA Pre✓® issues. We look forward to answering your questions, 8am-10pm ET weekdays; 9am-7pm weekends/holidays. #AskTSA #TSATravelTips
“I used to post public service announcements with images featuring a plane behind, for example. But that didn’t work well,” said Burns. “People like screenshots because those are questions they care about.”
And like any brands, the TSA sometimes gloms onto trending hashtags, but it never goes crazy. For instance, on May 4, Star Wars Day, Burns posted a Darth Vader helmet asking travelers to report medical items.
“I’m so blessed to live in a country where a government agency posts this,” user @constance.c commented.
“@tsa funnier than the White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” another user, @arduousbrain, wrote.
And on March 14, Pie Day, Burns posted a pie because travelers constantly ask if they are allowed to carry a pie on the plane during Thanksgiving.
Going forward, Burns plans to produce more video content and live streams via Stories on Instagram, but he hasn’t yet figured out a concrete plan. “Until now, we just have one or two video clips on Instagram,” he said. “We have ‘The Faces of TSA’ on YouTube. It would be interesting to see how that series pans out on Instagram.”
Homepage image via TSA on Instagram.
Digiday+ Research: Instagram wins over Facebook for role in brands’ holiday marketing
Brands differ on how they use each marketing channel during the holidays -- even when it comes to sibling social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, Digiday+ Research found.
How — and why — Candy Crush is in the midst of a 10th anniversary brand refresh
In the years since Activision Blizzard acquired the Swedish game studio King in 2016, employees at the gaming giant have started to internally refer to their company as “ABK” — that is, Activision Blizzard King. But the corporation’s recent financial reports indicate that “KAB” might be a more accurate abbreviation.
Independent agency Goat invests in influencer strategy for clients as it expands in the U.S.
Everyone is after influencers to up their marketing game. But the secret to success, Goat contends, is in viewing influencers as performance media and using data to deliver clients guaranteed outcomes.
SponsoredHow brands are measuring incremental performance on CTV
Connected TV is unique among other advertising channels because it combines linear television’s storytelling capabilities with digital marketing’s targeting and measurement. As more marketers leverage CTV advertisements to reach relevant and engaged audiences, they also want to understand the real value they are generating with their investment. Incrementality reporting and measurement allow advertisers to measure […]
Marketers bring Web3 to the FIFA World Cup with augmented reality, NFTs and virtual worlds
The month-long tournament, which begins this weekend, will be the first World Cup since it took place in Russia in 2018 long before “Web3” entered the global lexicon. Now, official and non-official sponsors are hoping to harness the hype with a range of NFTs, virtual worlds, augmented reality tools and other trendy tech.
U-Haul diversifies its social strategy to tell people it’s more than moving trucks
In recent years, U-Haul's in-house agency has been working to "better leverage social media for brand loyalty."