Money Matters - Simplified

US State Department shells out $630K on Facebook 'likes'

Facebook fans has cost the US State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) $630,000.

As per a new report, advertising campaigns to win the number of Facebook fans has cost the US State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) $630,000.

Apparently, the PR program that shelled out over half a million dollars to attract more followers has come under a lot of flak given that the government is touting severe austerity measures.

Two advertising campaigns
According to the report prepared by the State Department's inspector general, the money was spent to in two advertising campaigns between 2011 and March 2013, with the "goal of building global outreach platforms for engagement with foreign audiences by increasing the number of fans ... on four thematic Facebook properties."

Over the two year duration, each of the State Department's Facebook page saw their number of fans skyrocket from 100,000 to over two million people. The Bureau’s foreign language pages also witnessed the numbers of followers multiply, rising from 68,000 to more than 450,000.

Not a worthwhile investment
However, the strategy was not really worth the effort or the cash spent as it failed to target the bureau's audience which is comprises primarily of older and more influential people.

Only two percent of fans were found to be engaging with these Facebook Pages, posting information and actually paying any attention to the bureau’s social media presence.

The report states, "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."

It further stated, "Engagement on each posting varied, and most of that interaction was in the form of 'likes.' Many postings had fewer than 100 comments or shares; the most popular ones had several hundred.

“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?"