As part of what looks to be a massive information campaign by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), TSA on Thursday announced the launch of 18 new Twitter accounts. If that seems like a lot for one organization, that’s because it is. It's also a growing trend for government agencies, who are often competing with news organizations, to get information to the public as fast as possible after an event. FEMA has about a dozen of its own, and DHS has more than 50 social media activities that fall under its umbrella.
Eleven of the new TSA accounts are individual TSA spokespersons. Additionally there are six accounts that will be used to push out information to travelers in the Central, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Western regions. TSA also has a main account for “updates concerning national TSA related information” and an account for the TSA Blog Team.
I sent some questions to a TSA spokesperson to find out more about the new accounts and TSA’s increased social media presence:
Tell me some about TSA’s first Twitter account (@TSABlogTeam)
The @TSABlogTeam account was created in 2008 to share information about the TSA Blog and announce new blog posts. It eventually evolved into a larger and very popular communication tool for the agency to share a variety of TSA related news.
What did TSA learned about using social media to interact with the public from the TSA Blog and @TSABlogTeam?
We try to share information as soon as we can and be responsive when possible.
Why so many new accounts? And what’s the difference in information that will be pushed out from Regional TSA Twitter accounts and Regional Spokesperson accounts?
We have multiple new accounts because it enables the public to pinpoint specific regions to follow rather than just following one national account. Sometimes people are understandably interested in the airports that they travel through the most. There will be similarities, between the national account and the regional accounts. It all depends on the situation. For the most part, the regional TSA accounts are also going to be used to share information during emergencies. For example, we used our @TSASouthEast account this week to retweet FEMA messaging and announce airport specific information related to Hurricane Isaac.
What will TSA’s interaction with the public (via social media) be like now? For example, will these accounts be used to just push out information or with the public affairs staff be answering questions as well?
We'll be doing both.
So there are the TSA Twitter accounts and the YouTube channel. DHS also lists a number of other social media activites that fall under its umbrella. Any plans for TSA expand to any other social media? Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.?
We are always looking at the many options to expand into other areas of social media and how best to do so.
At times the public and the media can be really critical of TSA. Twitter gives people a more direct route to communicate with the agency. Have you been getting a lot of negative communication on Twitter at all since launch the new accounts?
I am not aware of any negative communication to a regional account. @TSA and @TSABlogTeam both get a wide variety of tweets both positive and some that are a little more critical.
Are there procedures in place to investigate/process tips about crimes, illegal activity, complaints that come to TSA via social media?
Yes, we have some points of contact to reach out if someone offers us a tip ranging from some sort of inappropriate activity to constructive suggestions and even complaints.
Should people worry that they are being monitored online/on Twitter by TSA?
Our TSA Blog Team does not monitor individuals online.
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