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The International Information Programs (IIP), a bureau of the U.S. State Department, spent $630,000 on Facebook advertising campaigns in 2011 and 2012, and according to a report from the Inspector General, they may not have gotten their money's worth.
The campaigns were effective at gaining fans for four of the Bureau's Facebook pages; they jumped from 100,000 to over two million during the two-year effort.
The Inspector General's report reveals that some people aren't pleased with the expenditure, citing complaints about 'buying fans' that potentially clicked 'like' once but were not engaged and then never returned.
Following a week of monitoring, the Inspector General's office found that only 2 percent of the Bureau's Facebook fans could be categorized as 'engaged audience' members, that is, people who are liking, sharing, and commenting.
According to RT, Facebook changed their policies in September 2012, dictating that content will only show up in friends of fans' newsfeed when the user is an 'engaged fan.' This adjustment to the rules resulted in a significant decrease in the value of the Bureau's purchases fan base.
"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 IG report said.
The report calls attention to the growing use artificially bolstered social media services. Instead of gaining fans or followers organically through useful, interesting, and engaging content, companies are able to buy there way to a massive audience.
Those selling the advertisements may be the only ones winning in these scenarios; users are served with content they aren't interested in, and companies waste tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars on ineffective marketing.