In your “why-the-hell” story of the day, it appears that a federal agency spent $630,000 in a campaign to acquire Facebook likes over the last couple of years.
The Bureau of International Information Programs, part of the U.S. Department of State, is responsible for foreign public diplomacy and communications. Its job is to “provide and support the places, content, and infrastructure needed for sustained conversations with foreign audiences to build America’s reputation abroad.”
And apparently, they wanted to spread that goodwill via Facebook.
From 2011 until March 2013, the expensive campaign increased IIP’s English-language Facebook page likes from 100,000 to 2 million. The foreign language pages also got a boost – from around 68,000 likes to 450,000.
“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,” says a recently released Inspector General report.
“With the Department’s use of social media comes strategic questions of the role, purpose, and limitations of the medium. A consensus is emerging that developing numbers of Facebook followers and Twitter fans may not lead automatically to target audience engagement,” says the report.
The Bureau found out what most businesses on Facebook find out eventually – that likes do not necessarily correlate to engagement.
“IIP’s four global thematic English-language Facebook pages had garnered more than 2.5 million fans each by mid-March 2013; the number actually engaging with each page was considerably smaller, with just over 2 percent ‘liking,’ sharing, or commenting on any item within the previous week,” says the Inspector General’s report.
Just…why the hell?