The Interior Department posted a photo of baby foxes at Maine's Acadia National Park over the summer.

The Interior Department posted a photo of baby foxes at Maine's Acadia National Park over the summer. Interior Department via Instagram

The 10 Best Government Instagram Accounts of 2015

Agencies are using the social media platform to advance their missions.

As they have with other social media channels, federal agencies increasingly are embracing Instagram as a way to get their messages out. It's a smart and relatively easy way to build goodwill with the public and spread the word about what agencies actually do. If you like the great outdoors, the land management agencies have you covered. If stuff that goes boom is more your thing, the Pentagon can deliver. Like democracy itself, there's something for everyone. Here are the 10 best government Instagram accounts of 2015.

Bureau of Reclamation

Reclamation's Otto Otter promotes water safety in Nampa, Idaho.

A photo posted by Bureau of Reclamation (@bureau_of_reclamation) on

The Bureau of Reclamation has fewer than 6,000 employees, but its mission of overseeing water resource management provides for some beautiful vistas. Plus there's Otto the Otter, whose message is that "Canals aren't for foolin' around" -- in photos with adorable children.

Department of Defense

The Pentagon likes to showcase its troops, technology and operations. The department's account resembles an action movie as much as the mission of a federal agency.

Department of Agriculture

How does the #TPP help the beef industry? #Texas rancher Bob McCan explains how expanding markets will benefit his cattle ranch and the industry as a whole: “Increasing access to foreign markets provides exponential opportunity for the U.S. beef industry. In 2014, U.S. beef exports accounted for over $7 billion in total sales and added over $350 in value for every head of cattle sold. That value is realized throughout all segments of the industry and will only grow as the demand for U.S. beef increases. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would give the United States greater access to market our beef to many countries in the Pacific Rim. Already accounting for about 60 percent of total U.S. beef exports, these countries clearly want our product. This agreement will allow us to continue to grow our market share in Asia and South America.” #RuralMade #MadeinAmerica

A photo posted by U.S. Department of Agriculture (@usdagov) on

Of all agencies, USDA goes heaviest on Americana on its Instagram account. This year, the agency featured ranchers, agency staff members and even a #TBT American flag carved out of farmland from the Dust Bowl in honor of Flag Day.

State Department

One of the most popular functions of social media is for users to showcase vacation photos. As the nation's diplomatic agency, the State Department does this well. Echoing a travelogue, the agency posts scenic photos of places as far-flung as Turkmenistan, as iconic as Paris and as familiar as New York.

Department of the Interior

The Interior Department goes heavy on beautiful landscapes from the United States' most scenic places. The agency also understands what savvy Internet users have long known: adorable baby animals are the core of social media.

NASA

NASA's social media presence has been lauded by many and the agency has done a remarkable job of advancing its mission through photography. Since releasing photos from the Apollo 11 mission, NASA photographs have captivated Americans. Instagram gives the agency a new avenue to feature photographs of the great beyond.

NOAA Fisheries

NOAA's scientists study marine ecosystems in the United States, providing beautiful photos of marine life. If social media exists to disseminate photos of animals, then this NOAA account delivers.

White House

DJ R2-D2's White House debut. #TheForceAwakens

A photo posted by The White House (@whitehouse) on

President Barack Obama is known for his use of social media, and it doesn't hurt that he lives in the most famous house in the United States. While the feed often relies too heavily on quote-overlaid photos and chart-based graphics for outreach, the White House social media team also knows how to feature the Obama's adorable dogs and iconic imagery.

Department of Homeland Security

DHS is one of the newest Instagram users among federal agencies, having joined only last December. But it knows what it is doing. Using a nice mix of DHS chief Jeh Johnson, daily operations of the agencies making up DHS and the service dogs employed by the agency, DHS is doing well on Instagram.

Transportation Security Administration

The TSA had a difficult year in the news, but the agency's Instagram account delivers on the promise of blowing users' minds with photos of things found in passenger bags during airport security screening. In addition to the Batman weapons, passengers this year have tried to sneak nunchucks, grenades and even birds stuffed in pants. And TSA also has dogs, so it hits the animal jackpot, too.

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