Taxpayers Buy $630k 'Likes' for State Department
Policy + Politics

Taxpayers Buy $630k 'Likes' for State Department

Reuters/The Fiscal Times

Diplomats at the State Department want you to like them…a lot. That’s $630,000-worth, to be exact.

In the last two years, the department’s Bureau of International Information Program has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to beef up the State Department’s popularity on Facebook, according to a recently released inspector general’s report.


But the social media push doesn’t seem to be working as well as the department had hoped. Other than achieving artificial popularity, the IG found that being “liked” by millions of Facebook users hasn’t yielded worthwhile results.

The report says that the State Department received a big boost in Facebook likes, from 100,000 in 2011 to more than 2 million this year – but the majority were “marginal fans that had no interest in the topic and have never engaged further.”

In fact, only about two percent of the two million Facebook users who “liked” the State Department have been actively posting and sharing on its pages.

The auditor notes that much of the State Department’s targeted audience is made up of older influential people (who probably don’t spend too much of their free time on Facebook government agencies). “What is the proper balance between engaging young people and marginalized groups versus elites and opinion leaders?” the report asks.

The report also revealed that while the bureau was pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into social media, there was no real social media strategy in place. There are currently more than 150 “uncoordinated and often overlapping” social media accounts throughout the department’s offices and bureaus.

To save money, the auditor, unsurprisingly, recommended that the State Department streamline its social media efforts and even offered a few tips.

“The bureau could reduce spending and increase strategic impact by focusing its advertising, not on raising overall fan numbers or general engagement statistics but on accomplishing specific goals.”

The department has not responded so far. But for more information, you can totally find them on Facebook.