The US State Department has spent around $630,000 on two marketing campaigns to increase fans of its four English Facebook pages.

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It increased Facebook fans from about 100,000 to over 2 million for each of its English language pages. The campaigns also helped to increase interest in its foreign language pages which ranged from 68,000 to over 450,000 likes.

That works out at around 12.06 cents per ‘Like’.

The Department justified its advertising spend pointing to the ‘difficulty of finding a page on Facebook with a general search and the need to use ads to increase visibility’.

The four English language Facebook pages had over 2.5 million fans by March 2013, however interaction was low. Only two per cent engaged with each page on Facebook.

Posts had fewer than 100 comments or shares and most of the interaction was in the form of likes on a page.

The report noted that the bureau uses Facebook to advertise in 25 countries with the largest number of young users and the highest engagement rate.

The International Information Programs (IIP) justified its continued spending and blamed Facebook for it needing to do this. When fans do not interact with a page, then over time, posts from the page no longer appear in the users news feed – unless the page buys sponsored story ads to ensure that the post appears on the users feeds.

The Department said that the 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.’

It commented that a posting on cyber censorship in March 2013 reached 234,000 Facebook users on its first day whereas only around 20,000 would have seen the post without it advertising. Its post on Women and the web was shown in 360,000 Facebook feeds instead of 27,000.

Many staff in the bureau have criticized the advertising campaigns as buying fans who have no interest in the topic and have not engaged further.

It has been recommended that the bureau directs its advertising to ‘specific public diplomacy goals’ and adopt a social media strategy that ‘clarifies the primary goals and public diplomacy priorities of its social media sites.’

Does it matter if the bureau is ‘Liked’?  With over 150 social media accounts that are uncoordinated and overlap, does the bureau need to focus on its core messaging and not its sponsored posts and like generation?

And is the US taxpayer prepared to spend over 12 cents for each ‘Like’ that the bureau receives in these economically straightened times?

Image Credit: Enoc.vt

Eileen is a social media strategist and consultant at Amastra, a columnist at ZDNet and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact Eileen to find out how she can elevate your brand and help your business become more social.