The State Department Spent $630,000 on Facebook ‘Likes,’ Failed To Engage Fans

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The U.S. State Department spent $630,000 to get more Facebook “likes” and failed to reach its target audience, the department’s inspector general said in its May report.

From 2011 to 2013, the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs spent the money to boost the English-language Facebook page of the department from 100,000 likes to more than 2 million and to 450,000 in its foreign-language pages. While it got the boost it needed, the money spent did not get more than 2 percent of its total fans to comment or like posts.

The Department expressed the frustration of money spent unwisely: “Many in the bureau criticize the advertising campaigns as ‘buying fans’ who may have once clicked on an ad or ‘liked’ a photo but have no real interest in the topic and have never engaged further.”

The report stated that the audience was mostly older, more influential individuals who probably don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook. The inspector general added that the Facebook algorithm changes in 2012 made static Facebook pages less visible on news feeds, hurting engagement further.

The inspector general’s report added: “The absence of a Department wide PD [public diplomacy] strategy tying resources to priorities directly affects IIP’s work. Fundamental questions remain unresolved. What is the proper balance between engaging young people and marginalized groups versus elites and opinion leaders?”

It certainly isn’t paying $630,000 for more Facebook “likes.”

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