How TSA Put the Humor Into Content material for an Company Recognized for Critical Enterprise


Did you hear the one in regards to the U.S. authorities company that draws tens of millions to its social media accounts?

It takes puns to new heights.

Sure, it’s the Transportation Safety Administration. That’s TSA for brief, although the strains at airport safety checkpoints don’t at all times appear to mirror that brevity. It’s additionally a critical enterprise given TSA was created to thwart terrorist assaults and different nefarious actions after Sept. 11, 2001.

At Content material Advertising World 2023, Emily Bonilla-Pieton took the viewers behind the scenes of TSA’s social media technique along with her presentation, Journey Suggestions and Dad Joke Hits: How To Maximize Your Staff To Produce Outcomes Whereas Staying Punny.

Injecting humor into content material can shock and delight an viewers anticipating staid, by-the-book content material. Emily says that technique has paid off for TSA, the place she’s labored for 15 years and presently serves because the performing social media department supervisor within the Workplace of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs at TSA within the Division of Homeland Safety (evidently, TSA doesn’t like quick titles both).

Squeezing the TSA dad-joke juice

Passenger to TSA: “Can I carry a suitcase stuffed with contemporary oranges?”

TSA: “Orange ya glad the reply is sure?!”

Passenger to TSA: “Can I carry a suitcase full of fresh oranges?”

TSA: “Orange ya glad the answer is yes?!”

TSA makes use of that so-called dad joke to provide a contemporary squeeze to a normal reply on TSA’s Instagram AMA (ask me something), which they function in actual time for about 10 hours on daily basis.

However TSA goes past the straightforward joke and, on this Instagram put up, crafts this well-written pun constructed on a video shared by a passenger. It’s obtained over 4 million likes previously two years.

A ramp employee performs the kids’s rock-paper-scissors recreation with a passenger on a aircraft. The caption artfully captures the essence of the video with a critical reminder about what’s allowed in carry-on baggage:

You’re in luck right here. You may’t lose with this information!

It’s all enjoyable and video games till you pack your scissors over 4 inches. That’s proper, in case your scissors are too large, they gained’t make the minimize. Typically, rocks are good to go in a carry-on relying on measurement or weight, however your paper at all times wins there.

We wish you to take journeys, not possibilities! You may undoubtedly do higher than 2 out of three when packing on your subsequent journey journey. To be within the know earlier than you go, take a look at our “What Can I Carry?” instrument. Shoot on as much as the hyperlink in our bio for all of the deets.

#RockPaperScissors #Aircraft #Video games

🎥 credit score: @ bricheeseyy

These posts exemplify TSA’s technique for Instagram, which boasts 1.4 million followers. “We entertained, we engaged, after which we did a shameless plug on prime, all of that,” Emily says.

“Our technique for the (rock-paper-scissors) put up was really let’s seize their consideration with a catchy video, a catchy trending sound, after which be a focus for the viewers with our opening liner. After which in fact, educate them,” Emily explains, noting the CTA to go to the hyperlink and bio.

Relatability is on the crux of TSA’s social media technique.

“We like to talk to of us such as you’re chatting with your finest pal. So, it’s very personable. We’re inspired to share our info and our content material, and we’re actually genuine,” Emily says.

However the TSA workforce can’t additionally relaxation on that technique alone. Although it follows a long-term technique with evergreen content material, it additionally reacts to trending matters. “We keep on prime of the ever-changing algorithm,” Emily says. “Issues can go viral, and we’re floating, and we’re like, ‘Sure!’ and the subsequent day it may bomb.”

Maintaining with the feedback — optimistic and adverse — additionally retains the workforce on its toes. “You will have one complete hour (after posting) to display to Instagram that you’re not a bot, that you’re driving this account organically,” Emily says.

Singing totally different tunes

Nevertheless, what works for Instagram doesn’t essentially work for Fb, X, YouTube, and LinkedIn. “It might be very straightforward to simply minimize and paste one content material on every platform, however we don’t do this,” Emily says.

They tailor their voice and content material to the age demographic and first areas of their followers on every platform.

On Fb, TSA has about 98,000 followers (lower than 10% of its Instagram account) and so they skew older. So, TSA tells tales, shares hiring occasions, and posts job descriptions to assist Grandma get her grandson out of the basement and into a pleasant federal job.

TSA additionally makes use of Fb to speak to folks, normally 55 and older, about touring with firearms in a non-critical means. “Our method is, ‘Oops, you might need not traveled for some time. Let’s test your luggage first since you don’t need to by chance neglect your firearm on the checkpoint.’”

Given TSA is a federal company and the drama round X, they don’t commit a number of price range to handle the account. About two staff are devoted to over 258,000 followers and so they focus closely on TSA’s present tales and information releases.

“We’re creating relationships with beat reporters as a result of we do depend on them to inform our story (on X) as a result of it doesn’t value us any cash.” Emily says.

TSA’s LinkedIn presence has grown considerably lately, with over 148,000 followers immediately. The goal demographic is folks between 25 and 34 years previous. Although they use their web page to focus on roles inside TSA, Emily says LinkedIn affords one other invaluable use — a spot to function company initiatives that don’t match on different social platforms, similar to revolutionary expertise information.

“I can’t inform you what number of occasions somebody’s like, ‘We wish your 1.2 million followers on Instagram to find out about our expertise. Would you be desirous about that on Instagram?’” Emily says.

“We politely say, ‘, the place that might match is on LinkedIn.’ We form of use LinkedIn as our scapegoat, and once we present them our numbers. We find yourself having completely satisfied prospects.”

TSA’s YouTube channel has about 95,000 subscribers. Over two dozen playlists with dozens of movies inform the TSA story, from staff on the job and their testimonials to journey suggestions and gadgets folks tried to convey by means of TSA. It additionally consists of the TSA Youngsters sequence. “Youngsters are chatting with different children on fundamental journey suggestions,” says Emily, whose youngsters assist voice a number of the movies.

In addition they host city halls and different dwell occasions on YouTube. And because the federal authorities company can’t be on TikTok, they plop in movies to YouTube Shorts the day after they discover success on Instagram.

Peanut butter is a liquid and different workforce information

The TSA social media workforce is constructed on flexibility. Emily is the one workforce member based mostly in Washington, D.C. Others on the distant workforce work from their residence states, together with California, Minnesota, and Florida.

It was a colleague in Idaho who texted Emily at 9 p.m. one evening. He wished to leap on a dialog on X about whether or not TSA thought-about peanut butter a liquid. She stated sure, and he entered the controversy with the definitive, “Sure, peanut butter is taken into account a liquid.”

“This was our alternative to display that something you’ll be able to spill, pour, pump, or unfold, is taken into account a liquid. It must be 3.4 ounces or much less to be carried on (a aircraft) and something better needs to be checked in, (baggage),” she says.

They highlighted how folks tried to cover their vapes and firearms inside peanut butter, and the dialog trended a bit for just a few weeks. Now, each Nationwide Peanut Butter Day and different occasions of the 12 months, they rehash all of it. “It’s the present that retains on giving,” Emily says.

The award-winning social media workforce discovered on the job about much more than peanut butter. Just one workforce member arrived with a social media background. All of the others first labored within the subject at their native airport. And so they’re united of their work, trusting one another to step in when burnout turns into a actuality. “In spite of everything, social media is designed to get us hooked. It’s like playing, not at all times wholesome,” Emily says.

However the social media workforce doesn’t function in a silo. They act as social listening brokers for the TSA media ops workforce and assist distract the media with a greater story when a adverse one pops up.

Nonetheless, having all this enjoyable with content material doesn’t imply they don’t take the numbers critically. One workforce member studies the numbers each week, detailing their key efficiency indicators in addition to the greenback equal of the natural publicity their posts and interactions would have value had they bought them.

The social media workforce’s technique is working in multiple means. “For some unusual cause, our management, the administrator, the company, they love this, and so they’re like, ‘They know what they’re doing. We’re going to allow them to simply proceed on.’”

Now, that’s the way you squeeze dry authorities info into candy and tangy sips of content material advertising.

Register to attend Content material Advertising World in San Diego. Use the code BLOG100 to save lots of $100. Cannot attend in particular person this 12 months? Take a look at the Digital Cross for entry to on-demand session recordings from the dwell occasion by means of the top of the 12 months.


Cowl picture by Joseph Kalinowski/Content material Advertising Institute