Fox News criticized State Department spending on public engagement through Facebook, though experts say that social media is a key component of public diplomacy in the 21st century and the State Department's Facebook presence has produced a level of engagement that exceeds industry standards.
Fox cited a May 2013 Inspector General (IG) report on the State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) in order to criticize the bureau for spending $630,000 on two advertising campaigns to increase the bureau's Facebook audience. According to the IG report, the campaigns succeeded in raising the number of followers of the bureau's English Facebook pages from around 100,000 per page to over 2 million for per page. The IIP is tasked with developing a social media community as part of its mission to provide and support "the places, content, and infrastructure needed for sustained conversations with foreign audiences to build America's reputation abroad."
During the June 3 Fox & Friends, guest co-host Clayton Morris suggested that the State Department's spending on "Facebook likes" was a not useful. Co-host Brian Kilmeade added, "Do you know how many White House tours they could have had with that?"
In fact, experts contend that social media outreach is an important part of modern diplomacy. American University professor Craig Hayden noted in a Fall 2012 Global Media Journal article that "social media technologies are increasingly inextricable from strategic formulations about US foreign policy, its methods, and objectives," and that "it is increasingly evident that such claims are more than unsubstantiated valorization of technology." Similarly, a February 2013 American Security Project report asserted that social media has a role in public diplomacy and advised that "these tools should be components of an integrated strategy" [emphasis original]. And a 2013 Aspen Institute report cited two former US ambassadors who urged the State Department to utilize social media "as a means to strengthen public diplomacy."
Moreover, a 2010 Pew Internet poll found that a majority of Americans do not think that that government engagement through social media "is a waste of government money." 79 percent of Americans also agreed that social media "helps people be more informed about what the government is doing," while 74 percent said it "makes government agencies and officials more accessible".
Though the IG report on the State Department's Facebook outreach noted that "just over 2 percent" of the bureau's followers like, share, or comment on the bureau's Facebook posts per week, according to research by the Chief Marketing Officer Council, two percent exceeds industry standards for the level of engagement that most brands can expect when seeking increased publicity on Facebook: "Only 1.3% of 'fans' actually engage with the brands they 'like'."