This week, National Public Radio did a story on the use of social networks by government agencies. It called out the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  TSA’s engagement with social media is essential given the dynamics of today’s world, especially for a government agency that interfaces in-person with 2 million people everyday in our nations airports.

Passenger research shows that when people understand the “why” of security, they are more likely to comply. So travelers who are educated in advance though the web have that “ah ha” moment and are more likely to understand the reasoning behind security regulations when they get to the airport. This makes them less likely to take out their frustrations on security officers.

TSA deals with challenging issues that may seem to defy logic, such as the new regulation to give your full name and birth date to the airlines when you book a flight. “Why is this necessary?”  “How does it have the potential to make things more convenient for the traveler?” TSA’s summer Ad Council campaign answered these questions.

Recent body imaging technology pilots also raise public concerns. “Must you go through the machine?” (It is optional.) “What are the other options?” (You can opt for a physical pat down.) “What does the image officers see actually look like?” (There are two different technologies in use. To see the most widely deployed technology, millimeter wave, visit the TSA YouTube site and watch a demo 60 Minutes taped.)

When so many travelers are making reservations on-line, this is exactly the place to reach them and communicate — before they get to the airport.

Cyber security is a valid concern, but so is getting accurate, timely information in the hands of the customer. TSA recognizes they are part of the national dialogue and they see the value in having a voice in the conversation.