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U.S. State Department spends $630,000 to boost Facebook ‘likes’

us department facebookWhat could you do with $630,000? Take care of your mortgage, pay bills and student loans, a car and house have to be high on that list, too. How about spending over half a million dollars on a Facebook campaign to attract more followers? Well that’s what the U.S. State Department did. 

A desperate State Department wanted to boost its Facebook following so badly that to get from 100,000 to more than 2 million followers during the two years between 2011 and 2013, the Department spent $630,000 on its Facebook strategy. The State Department employees described the social media strategy fairly simply: “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,” a U.S. State Department report stated.

Defenders of this plan argued that Facebook Page discovery is difficult enough to merit the use of Facebook ads “to increase visibility.”

OK, so the State Department may be content that after its six figure investment each of its four Facebook pages had 2.5 million fans that were acquired through advertisements and viral photos, but a funds-rich social media strategy doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve acquired loyal fans. The rate of engagement would be the judge of that.

No surprise here: Just two percent of fans were found to be engaging with these Facebook Pages, which means that few people are actually paying any attention to the U.S. State Department’s Facebook presence. And that has to sting, given that the department felt they were worth spending quite a bit of cash on.

“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 State Department acknowledged in the report that buying fans wasn’t a terribly worthwhile investment. Maybe that will be a lesson to everyone buying Facebook fans out there: The state department shelled out and look where it got them. Apparently you really can’t buy popularity.

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