How much is that Facebook fan in the window? US Embassy Jakarta’s $100,000 social media effort

US Embassy JKT/Facebook logo

The Guardian recently published an unclassified 2010 cable from the US Embassy in Jakarta requesting $100,000 to “amplify social media effort in time for March POTUS Visit.”

We have followed US Embassy Jakarta’s social media adventure almost from the start and have been quite impressed with its FB team’s creativity and dedication in engaging with the Indonesian public online (see links at the bottom of this post). But — we never had an opportunity to look into its funding. We, of course, realized that the FB team could not have ran multiple contests or offered prizes without appropriate funding.  Now, for the first time, we get a glimpse on just how much it cost to ramp up the embassy’s fan base in Facebook.  This unclassified cable from US Embassy Jakarta shows the break down of funds requested and for what. Excerpt:

Mission Indonesia requests $100,000 immediately in order reach a goal of 1 million Facebook fans in just 30 days — just before POTUS visit.

Action Plan and Implementation

6. This money would be used in three areas. First, it would increase direct advertising via Facebook. Currently, Embassy Jakarta spends less than $25 per day on advertising, and nets between 300-400 new fans daily. Increasing this tenfold over 30 days, results in a gain of 100,000 to 120,000 fans. The funds would also be used to promote the visit and our fan page as the place to learn more by extensively advertising on Indonesian online portals, banner ads, YouTube, Twitter, and other promotional efforts, including embedding bloggers, contests and giveaways, and using SMS technology. With over 100 million mobile phone users in Indonesia, texting is a powerful way to include a huge audience. Partnering with a major telecom provider, we can encourage Indonesians to sign up for real-time updates via their cell phone — a great way to reach those not yet online about the visit. Cost: $60,000.

7. Another key promotion strategy to generate interest will be offering a “golden ticket” via Facebook. We propose making a dream come true for one lucky Indonesian, by providing an opportunity to meet POTUS during his visit. If the White House approves, we could invite fans to post why they should meet President Obama, and in doing so, use our social media platform to connect fans to the visit, as well as build excitement beforehand and follow-up coverage afterwards. In addition, we could partner with a local TV station to have a “finalist” show and increase coverage. RSO would ensure any winner(s) are vetted for security issues. If the White House would not agree to this, an alternate “dream prize” might be an educational trip to the U.S. Cost: $15,000.

8. Third, in order to implement these ideas in this limited time-frame, we need short-term expert help on this promotion in the form of a qualified local digital marketing agency, who could assist the Embassy’s new media team (currently one officer and three FSNs working on it part-time). Cost: $25,000.

You can read the entire cable here. It is an unclassified cable, so you, presumably, will not go blind if you read it from your unclas workstation :-).

A note on this specific cable. We have requested confirmation/clarification from the State Department regarding this funding request.  After our contact realized that we were referring to a leaked cable released by the Guardian, we were told that “We of course do not comment on such items” and was offered someone who can call DiploPundit to “discuss public diplomacy’s work to support social media at posts around the world.”

We politely declined the offer. We did point out that this cable is an unclassified material with no apparent restriction.  We were then told that it’s “general policy not to speak about leaked materials, even if the alleged items are unclassified.”

Okay, so yeah, we kinda tried … 

Now, on to that $100K funding request —

If you remember, President Obama’s Indonesia visit was originally scheduled for March 2010 but was delayed due to the health care reform fight on the Hill. It was rescheduled for June 2010 until the oil spill forced him to postpone the trip again.  President Obama finally made it to Indonesia in November last year, a trip also cut short due to volcanic ash.  His visit lasted less than 24 hours.

Since the presidential visit was postponed twice, US Embassy Jakarta actually had three opportunities to rack up its prospective 1 million fans, once in March and then in June and finally in November.  The Embassy’s FB page, the top page in the State Department pages worldwide since late last year currently sits at approximately 303,000 fans. But that’s still far below its stated goal of “1 million Facebook fans in just 30 days — just before POTUS visit” per cable request.

We could not get confirmation from anyone that the embassy received its full request but we note that its “Golden Ticket” contest did run last year. On June 2010, on a nationally-televised show, three Facebook fans of the U.S. Embassy Jakarta earned an all-expense paid educational trips to the U.S.  Instead of meeting with President Obama, as the cable request suggested, the winners got the alternate “dream prize”  — a trip to Hawaii, where Obama was born; Chicago where Obama started his political career; and Washington, D.C., where Obama serves as U.S. President. The total cost based on the cable request was $15,000.

So this part of the request did go through. And if the embassy got its full funding request, what happened to the projected 1 million fans?

We are awfully bad at math but  its looks like even with 303,000 Facebook fans, that’s still approximately three fans to a dollar, instead of the projected ten fans to a dollar.  Prior to this $100K funding request, the embassy was spending “less than $25 per day on advertising, and nets between 300-400 new fans daily.”  So with let’s say —  $24.00 a day and a minimum gain of 300 fans daily — that translates to about 0.08¢ per FB fan.

Given the shortfall in its projected 1 million fans, it looks like the cost per FB fan actually went from 0.08¢ to 0.33¢. What do you think of that?

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US Embassy Jakarta’s Social Media Outlets:

US Embassy Jakarta/Twitter |
 Approximately 16,200 followers
426 videos
Subscribers: 145
Total Upload Views: 79,189
@America Center | Pacific Place Mall, Jakarta, Indonesia | – 1,632 followers

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