Facebook ‘likes’ come at high cost to State Department

The State Department dished out more than $600,000 in Facebook advertising campaigns in an attempt to increase its fan base on Facebook.

According to an inspector general report, the department increased its Facebook fans from 100,000 to more than 2 million “likes” over two major advertising campaigns. The advertising also helped to increase fan counts for State’s foreign language pages, now with more than 450,000 fans.

The Bureau of International Information Programs spent the money on these advertising campaigns between 2011 and March 2013.

For many agencies, it’s illegal to spend money on social media advertising, and an agency with a successful social media strategy will rarely resort to paid advertising, according to one insider.


“With the department’s use of social media comes strategic questions of the role, purpose and limitations of the medium,” according to the IG report. “A consensus is emerging that developing numbers of Facebook followers and Twitter fans may not lead automatically to target audience engagement.”

The Facebook advertising campaigns have been criticized by many internally, who view the campaigns as “buying fans”— those who may have “liked” a photo or clicked on an ad, but have no real interest in the topic, according to the IG report.

The disorganization of the social media strategy at State Department is another issue the report cites. There are more than 150 social media accounts that are uncoordinated and often duplicated.

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