The cash-strapped US State Department wasted $630,000 to get more Facebook “likes” in a desperate attempt to buy fans on social media.
The department’s Bureau of International Information Programs spent the money to increase its “likes” count between 2011 and March 2013.
This sort of spending has fallen foul of the government’s auditor, the inspector general, who thought the whole idea was ridiculous.
He pointed out that advertising campaigns were ‘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.
The spending increased the bureau’s English-language Facebook page likes from 100,000 to more than 2 million and to 450,000 on Facebook’s foreign-language pages.
But the inspector general said that the effort failed to reach the bureau’s target audience, which is largely older and more influential than the people liking its pages.
Less than two percent of fans actually engage with the pages by liking, sharing or commenting.
Since September 2012 Facebook also changed its approach to users’ news feeds, and the expensive fan campaigns became much less valuable.
“The bureau now must constantly pay for sponsored ads to keep its content visible even to people who have already liked its pages,” the IG wrote.
Currently the bureau lacks its own social media strategy, but various State Department bureaus have more than 150 social media accounts that are uncoordinated and often overlap, according to the IG.
So basically it appears that a government department decided to throw money at the problem without much in the way of understanding.