Face­book aims to make celeb Twit­ter for the birds

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - MEDIA& MARKETING -

SAN FRAN­CISCO: Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga are the most fol­lowed celebri­ties on Twit­ter, yet the pop stars have even more “likes” on Face­book. Now the world’s big­gest so­cial net­work is look­ing to cap­i­talise.

As Twit­ter rev­els in its suc­cess­ful ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing (IPO), Face­book is push­ing on to the mi­croblog’s turf, pre­par­ing to roll out a tool that makes it eas­ier for the rich and fa­mous to chat with their fol­low­ers, ac­cord­ing to a per­son with knowl­edge of the mat­ter, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied be­cause the fea­ture hasn’t been re­leased.

Let­ting ac­tors, ath­letes and politi­cians com­mu­ni­cate in 140 char­ac­ters via pub­lic ques­tion- and- an­swer ses­sions has helped Twit­ter’s pop­u­lar­ity by re­mov­ing the bar­rier be­tween celebrity and fan. The stakes es­ca­late now that Twit­ter must ap­pease in­vestors while also com­pet­ing more deeply with Face­book, which is help­ing its bil­lion-plus users in­ter­act with their he­roes.

“This is an area of strate­gic im­por­tance to us,” said Justin Osof­sky, vice pres­i­dent of me­dia part­ner­ships and global op­er­a­tions at Menlo Park-based Face­book. “We’ve been build­ing our part­ner­ships team in Los An­ge­les and glob­ally to bet­ter work with celebri­ties and me­dia part­ners and si­mul­ta­ne­ously in­vest­ing in prod­ucts that bet­ter sur­vice the con­ver­sa­tion.”

Osof­sky didn’t com­ment on spe­cific prod­ucts the com­pany is de­vel­op­ing. He said his team had grown to more than 10 peo­ple and con­tin­ued to ex­pand.

Rachael Hor­witz, a Twit­ter spokes­woman, de­clined to com­ment.

Two years ago Face­book and San Fran­cisco- based Twit­ter were ven­ture-backed so­cial-net­work­ing com­pa­nies try­ing to prove there was big money to be made in online chats.

Now they’re worth about a com­bined $140 bil­lion and vy­ing for lead­er­ship in the so­cial­me­dia ad­ver­tis­ing mar­ket, which is pro­jected to surge to $11bn in the US in 2017 from $4.7bn last year, ac­cord­ing to re­searcher BIA/Kelsey.

The celebrity bat­tle is symp­to­matic of a big­ger clash be­tween the two com­pa­nies, which are lo­cated about 48km apart in the coun­try’s tech­nol­ogy hub. Both are vy­ing to con­nect ad­ver­tis­ers with mo­bile users, bol­ster in­ter­na­tional rev­enue and hire Sil­i­con Val­ley’s best de­vel­op­ers.

Twit­ter is still a frac­tion of the size of Face­book, with about one-fifth the mar­ket cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion and num­ber of users and one-twelfth the rev­enue.

Face­book is us­ing that heft to lure celebrity at­ten­tion. It’s im­prov­ing prod­ucts to woo mu­si­cians, sports stars and other pop­u­lar per­son­al­i­ties, en­cour­ag­ing them to in­ter­act with fans, ac­cord­ing to Osof­sky.

“It’s still the de­fault to just go to Twit­ter and gain a fol­low­ing there,” said Phil Con­trino, chief an­a­lyst at re­searcher Box­Of­fice.com. “But Face­book in a lot of ways can be just as pow­er­ful. Maybe you’ll see more celebri­ties start­ing to use that as Twit­ter gets a lit­tle crowded.” – Wash­ing­ton Post

TWEET LIFE: Katy Perry and Lady Gaga might switch to Face­book

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