State Department Bought 'Likes' on Facebook for $630K – for Naught

Image: State Department Bought 'Likes' on Facebook for $630K – for Naught

Wednesday, 03 Jul 2013 10:28 AM

By Michael Mullins

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The U.S. State Department has reportedly spent more than $630,000 on Facebook "Likes" for the pages the Bureau of International Information Programs operates and has accomplished virtually nothing by doing so.

Between 2011 and March 2013, the department bought the Facebook Likes, growing the bureau's English-language pages from grew its number of likes from 100,000 to more than 2 million. Additionally, the bureau's foreign-language pages also saw a jump in likes of more than 450,000 over the same time period.

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Employees were the ones to accuse the government watchdog of buying social media fans, according to the agency's inspector general, the Washington Examiner reported.

This is not to mention that just 2 percent of those who liked the page actually shared information from the bureau or commented on the page, the inspector general reported.

"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 inspector general said.

Also, the bureau did not reach its target audience: older, influential individuals, and the bureau had no strategy for doing so, despite the sum of money they spent, according to the inspector general.

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

Not only does the bureau lack a social media strategy, but they also have more than 150 social media accounts that various officials in the State Department operate -- an effort that is uncoordinated and often overlaps, the Examiner reports.

Facebook changed their algorithms in September so that users can see a portion of their friends' feeds, which forced the bureau to pay for sponsored advertisements so those who liked the page can actually see their content.

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