The State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs spent $630,000 to get more “likes” on Facebook in order to stimulate interest in their product. The agency’s Inspector General said, “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.”
Although the money raised the English-language Facebook page likes from 100,000 to more than 2 million and spiked the foreign-language pages to 450,000. The IG said it was not useful, as the target audience for the bureau is older than the youngsters registering “likes.”
As the report stated:
In September 2012 Facebook changed the way it displays items in its users’ news feeds. If a user does not interact with a site’s postings, after a time these posting will no longer appear in the user’s news feed unless the site buys sponsored story ads to ensure their appearance. This change sharply reduced the value of having large numbers of marginally fans and means that IIP must continually spend money on sponsored story ads or else its “reach” statistics will plummet.
The IG also stated that the bureau’s social media outreach shows poor planning for reaching the target audience:
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?” the IG said.
The report also stated of the Bureau: “Morale is low. Leadership created an atmosphere of secrecy, suspicion and uncertainty. A pervasive perception of cronyism exists in the bureau.”