State Department bureau shelled out $630K for Facebook 'likes'

An inspection report highlights the foibles of one bureau's social-media strategy and points out the Department of State's general state of confusion on how to manage all of its accounts.

Jennifer Van Grove Former Senior Writer / News
Jennifer Van Grove covered the social beat for CNET. She loves Boo the dog, CrossFit, and eating vegan. Her jokes are often in poor taste, but her articles are not.
Jennifer Van Grove
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The U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Information Programs spent $630,000 on two Facebook campaigns in 2011 and 2012 to generate "likes" for its Facebook Pages, according to an inspection report issued by the Office of the Inspector General and published by the Washington Examiner.

The bureau's Facebook advertising efforts successfully exposed four Facebook Pages to millions of people, but failed to generate meaningful engagement in the form of "likes," comments, or shares for status updates.

"The bureau ... succeeded in increasing the fans of the English Facebook pages from about 100,000 to more than 2 million for each page," the report 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."

Ultimately, just 2 percent of fans liked, shared, or commented on any Page update during a one-week period, according to the inspection report. The report also concluded that the bureau, even after accumulating millions of likes, needs to spend heavily on Facebook's Sponsored Stories ads in order to get its posts in front of large audiences.

The bureau's Facebook foibles speak to the Department of State's general state of confusion around how to manage all of its social-media accounts.

"Department offices and bureaus have established more than 150 social media accounts, and the Department has been wrestling with the issue of strategy and coordination," the Office of the Inspector General said.