• Social Media Numbers Don’t Add Up at State Department

    November 2, 2012

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State

    The latest self-congratulatory social media pablum from the State Department (in the guise of a “new” Brookings Institute report whose data has been peddled before) offers one non-insight, and one quite revealing.

    The non-insight is over the course of forty dense pages of praise (“At the vanguard of this adaptation is the U.S. State Department,” Hillary Clinton is referred to as “the Godmother of 21st Century Statecraft”) is that despite over 150 people employed at State in 25 separate ediplomacy nodes covering eight different work areas, and at U.S. missions abroad another 900 staff use ediplomacy tools to some extent, there’s not a word said about effectiveness, value, return on investment, whatever you might wish to call actually assessing the point of spending time and money on something.

    What is revealing are the numbers. The report gushes over the numbers of people who friend, follow and like the State Department’s social media outlets. The clear implication is that a tool that reaches this many people can’t but help be effective at, well, something.

    Fair enough, but the problem is that a hugely significant number of the people the State Department is talking to are in the United States, a clear miss for what is supposed to be America’s foreign affairs organ.

    For Facebook, out of some 12 million fans, almost 8 million are in the U.S., about two thirds of them.

    For Twitter, out of 1.7 million followers, 867,000 are in the U.S., about half of them.

    For YouTube, out of 26,700 subscribers, over 15,000 are in the U.S., well more than half.

    We’ll skip the tired old discussion about the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, whcih, among other things, was supposed to prevent the U.S. from disseminating propaganda inside the U.S.; propaganda was for foreigners. Whatever you think of that, technology, primarily the web, has of course made boundaries disappear and anything from a major news event to those goddamn cute cat videos is available on the global smorgasbord.

    We’ll also skip the paranoid rant about how the State Department is trying to influence Americans as a tool of the White House or the gay movement or the Trilateral Commission or Spongebob. The content of the State Department social media is so lame and substance free that its only possible influence is as a sleep aid.

    What we’ll conclude instead is that social media as practiced by the State Department is fairly pointless. With its Hillary’s eDiplomacy wonks and their primary role in conducting America’s foreign affairs (Bill handles the domestic affairs, couldn’t stop myself, sorry, and you were thinking it too), you’d think whatever the point of all the social media, it would have more to do with talking to foreigners than talking to Americans.

    Since no one at State is willing to assess social media in any way except by numbers, perhaps they need to take a closer look at their headcounts and decide if all the time, money and effort is worth it, given that more than half just dribbles back onto us here at home.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Eric Hodgdon said...


      I don’t know if I should see what the ediplomacy is outputting.

      OK, they run our embassies ? Sounds reasonable. Our first was TJ, and he had 5 employees and a few thousand dollars as I remember.

      From Wikipedia.org: (slightly edited) under ‘Duties and Responsibilities’

      “The Department of State is the lead U.S. foreign affairs agency, and is the President’s principal foreign policy advisor (sic). The Department advances U.S. objectives and interests in the world through its primary role in developing and implementing the President’s foreign policy. The Department also supports the foreign affairs activities of other U.S. Government entities including the Department of Defense, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. It also provides an array of important services to U.S. citizens and to foreigners seeking to visit or immigrate to the U.S.”

      I see Americans using this service. As to the %ages, or the length of time this ediplomacy has been running….., ?

      However, as the President’s foreign policy is being rather rude, in that killing people and invading so many places around the globe…., it stands to reason the executive department has not been making any new friends this past decade.

      With great reason, I see no rational explanation for any President’s foreign policy to have continued DOWN and on the WRONG road AWAY from civilized activities.

      The current and past President’s foreign policies are idiotic, stupid, and counter to our collective principles AND civilized behavior, I think for the most part.

      Unless the secrets being withheld from us indicate a rational reason, all recent Presidential foreign policies are treasonous at best, and I do not kid around with this word, TREASONOUS. By countering our own principles – LONG HELD – the Executive Department is giving aid and comfort to our enemies.

      11/2/12 6:34 PM | Comment Link

    • Lafcadio said...


      The State Department is just horrible at math. And, as with social media, when they manage to add a total, they use it in a misleading way.

      Another great example is found in the consular sections, where each section from each and every embassy and consulate around the world report on the “overstay” rate for non-immigrant visa applicants. Naturally, each section has an overstay rate of 1% or less, based on a phone survey of purported applicants. Questionable figures, particularly when dealing with places like Santo Domingo, Mexico city or Manila.

      Amazingly, I can walk to the ice cream stand down the road and find a girl working there who came to the U.S. on an niv from Manila three years ago and is looking for a way to get “legal.”

      State keeps saying 1% or less, but my eyes and ears tell me something else.

      11/3/12 12:40 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      Peter said:
      quote “How many Facbook posts are needed per drone attack to make the victims’ relatives feel better?” unquote


      that’s the funniest thing I’ve seen all week.
      Peter, you’re batting 100.

      I guess I need to dust off my Twitter account. Fuck Zuckface. He’s gotta nuff money.

      hmmm…I wonder if tweetin a condolence to drone victim relatives constitutes “material support”?

      Wouldn’t surprise me. Nothin surprises me anymore.

      11/3/12 4:45 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      ps..Peter said:

      quote: “The content of the State Department social media is so lame and substance free that its only possible influence is as a sleep aid.” unquote

      Damn Peter..make that 1000.


      11/3/12 4:51 PM | Comment Link

    • liberti said...



      11/6/12 12:46 AM | Comment Link

    • David Linfield said...


      Of U.S. Embassy Cairo’s 462,000 Facebook fans, 91.7% of them are located in Egypt and only 1.5% in the U.S.

      11/30/12 2:26 PM | Comment Link

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