Promoted Facebook pages, we've all seen them sitting at the top of our newsfeed trying to make you like their page so they can expand their reach and/or customer base. But what would you do if you logged into Facebook and now a promoted post from the United States State Department?
Well, it's unclear exactly what type of Facebook campaign the State Department was running, but it seems that many of Americans may have experienced just that. According to a May report from the Office of the Inspector General, the department's Bureau of International Information Programs spent $630,000 on two Facebook campaigns to increase its number of followers on English-language Facebook pages.
Yes, $630,000 taxpayer dollars. Has Facebook invented a 'dislike' button yet? Now would be the perfect time.
"The campaigns were successful garnering more than 2 million new followers for each page — up from 100,000 — and it also increased following on foreign-language pages.
But those within the bureau questioned this practice, according to the report.
“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. Defenders of advertising point to the difficulty of finding a page on Facebook with a general search and the need to use ads to increase visibility,” the report stated.
For example, four of the bureau’s English-language Facebook pages are cited as having more than 2.5 million fans by mid-March of this year, but only 2 percent actually are engaged in activity on the pages.
“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,” according to the report.
On Facebook, less engagement means less of a chance that any postings will make it onto users newsfeeds informing them of the bureau’s activities.
“This change sharply reduced the value of having large numbers of marginally interested fans and means that IIP must continually spend money on sponsored story ads or else its ‘reach’ statistics will plummet,” the report stated.
The other offices and bureaus of the State Department were found to have more than 150 social media accounts that are “wrestling with the issue of strategy and coordination” and having some overlap issues."
"The report recommends the IIP “direct its digital advertising to specific public diplomacy goals” that “find the right balance between youth and elite audience engagement.” It also states that a social media strategy should be adopted that actually drives engagement to accomplish the IIP’s goals.
It advocates that the public affairs office for the department work with IIP to coordinate regular meetings that would help get all parties working together without overlap.
The IG report stated that during its inspection the IIP stopped paying for advertising on Facebook as it evaluated its pages and program goals."
"I don't like the State Department in any sense of the word 'like.' I don't like it on Facebook, I don't like it with ham, I don't like it, Sam I am," Glenn said after seeing the report.
"Why would you — why, if you're the State Department, do you give a rat's anus about how many people give you the 'like' symbol, the thumbs‑up on Facebook," Pat added.
Stu noted that the 'likes' reached were artificial, which, if true, would mean the State Department spend over half a million dollars to expand their reach for a face value number that doesn't even increase their reach or influence across social media. Why made Stu ask the question, "Why do they care?"
"I really want to know? Why? Do presidents and prime ministers around the world go, 'Well, how many likes does the State Department have,'" Glenn asked jokingly.
According to the State Department they wanted to increase their pages 'likes' to increase outreach (or the amount of people their page reaches), but if the likes are artificial…they're not exactly reaching more people.
"It's not outreach when you're buying people," Stu noted.
"Are you Facebook liking anybody who has the State Department as part of their likes," Glenn joked.
And while Glenn and Stu are both right, the likes — if artificial — don't do anything to expand their reach, it could give off the perception that the public is more pleased with their performance than they really are. Odds are, after Benghazi, the State Department's approval rating isn't exactly off the charts, but they can give off the appearance of being more engaged with the American people than they really are.