State Department Spends $630,000 on Social Media Campaign

By:  Brian Koenig
State Department Spends $630,000 on Social Media Campaign

The State Department doled out more than $630,000 to boost Facebook “likes” for four of its pages on the social media website.

Betting the farm on an exorbitant social media campaign, the State Department doled out more than $630,000 to boost Facebook “likes” for four of the pages on its website, according to a new report by the agency’s inspector general (IG).

The program was launched after the department ramped up its presence on social media by writing blogs, setting up Twitter accounts, launching Facebook pages, and utilizing other Web-marketing efforts to lure attention from foreign audiences. A post on the State Department’s official website acknowledged that the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), which blueprinted the strategy, was not designed to engage domestic users, but to provide the “places, content, and infrastructure needed for sustained conversations with foreign audiences” to bolster the country’s reputation abroad:

IIP supports both physical and virtual places, including approximately 820 American Spaces around the world, as well as a growing social media community that numbers over 22 million followers. Content includes publications, video, and U.S. expert speakers, who engage foreign audiences both in person and through virtual programs. IIP manages the infrastructure for all embassy and consulate websites, translations of public remarks by the President and Secretary, and internal websites serving field public diplomacy officers. [Emphasis in original.]

The marketing effort, which launched its initiatives between 2011 and March 2013, elevated the agency’s fan numbers for each of the four pages from 100,000 to more than 2 million — and to 450,000 on Facebook’s foreign-language pages — the report asserted. However, responding to the idea of the campaign’s purported “success,” many employees said the State Department was “buying fans,” and that its efforts were largely exaggerated. Such claims stem from the idea that the bureau was accruing “fans” who may have clicked once on an ad but have never committed any further engagement.

The IG report discovered that the number of Facebook users who “actively engaged” with each page was meager, with a mere two percent “liking,” sharing, or commenting on any entry within the previous week. Furthermore, the effort became even less effective in September 2012, when Facebook changed its format for news feeds.

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Photo: AP Images

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