Ambitious or unrealistic? Jakarta US Embassy’s $100k, 30-day plan for 1m Facebook fans
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Ambitious or unrealistic? Jakarta US Embassy’s $100k, 30-day plan for 1m Facebook fans

During my two-week blogging absence, WikiLeaks released a cable – through the Guardian – detailing the US Embassy in Jakarta’s request for $100,000 of funding for social media.

Essentially, as the summary below from the leaked cable explains, the embassy wanted to celebrate the President’s upcoming visit to the country by breaking the one million Facebook fan barrier… that’s 950,000 new fans in a period of just 30 days!

Mission Indonesia requests immediate additional funding to use new media and social networking tools maximize online outreach for the POTUS visit scheduled for late March, 2010.

Already the leading U.S. Mission in the world on Facebook with nearly 50,000 “fans,” and one of the leading Missions using Twitter, YouTube and engaging local bloggers to promote USG messages and information, we are uniquely positioned to use these tools to amplify key topics and themes to support the upcoming visit by President Obama.

We request $100,000 in funding from R to boost our Facebook fan page membership to 1 million, and can accomplish this in 30 days.

What is interesting is the details within the cable on the existing Facebook strategy used by the Jakarta embassy, and where the new funding would be spent.

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.

I find it interesting that there is an assumption that increasing the advertising spend is proportional to new fans made, which may not necessary be the case… and I don’t think can be stated for sure. Though the other facets of the promotion are well planned and tactical, one wonders exactly how wide an audience it can attract without a more compelling call to sign up, i.e. incentive.

Which is where the golden ticket comes in…

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 [President of the United States] 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.

Rounding off the column is a short-term windfall for a local agency engaged to work the project.

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.

The golden ticket creatives are both good ideas, but I’m still not sure that this can attract 950,000 new fans in just 30 days. Yes Indonesia is a major social media market, particularly for Facebook in which it is second only to the US, but I think such a project is too ambitious and unrealistic under a tight time scale. Over a longer period of time it is far more feasible.

I’m not being overly critical, as I enjoy the US embassy social media activity – particularly in Bangkok where I have greater visibility of the organisation’s events and recent promotions which have welcomed the new Bangkok-based ambassador Kristie Kenny, who picked up a keen interest in social media from her recent post in the Philippines.

Thomas Crampton concludes that the cable is “reassuring in that it shows how the US Embassy in Jakarta understands the real corridors of power in the 21st century”.

While I do take his point, I think that aspiring to convert 950,000 new members in a month is unrealistic, beyond being ambitious. Indeed, such a target suggests that while the Jakarta operations knows, and uses, social media is a major channel, it doesn’t ‘really’ get it, and how to use it, as one might expect given it has made a request for $100,000.

For more context see this listing of the world’s most popular brand pages on Facebook. Adding one million fans would replicate 5% of top ranked Coca Cola’s total efforts on the social network ever in just one month using a far smaller pool of potential fans, despite Indonesia large online population, as Coca Cola page is global.