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Facebook and Twitter Offer Businesses Opportunities and Challenges

Facebook and Twitter offer businesses both opportunities and challenges around the world: About 60% of users are outside the United States.





Michael Jackson
10.3 million fans
Barack Obama
6.9 million supporters
Vin Diesel
6.6 million fans
VIPS Ashton Kutcher
3.9 million followers
Ellen DeGeneres
3.6 million followers
Britney Spears
3.6 million followers
Face•book
n. 1: A service that "gives people the power to share and make the world more open and connected." — Facebook 2: A "cyberland of rampant narcissism and wasted time."
— Andy Ostroy, The Huffington Post
  Twit•ter
n. 1: "A real-time short-messaging service that works over multiple networks and devices." — Twitter 2: "A playground for imbeciles, skeevy marketers, D-list celebrity half-wits, and pathetic attention seekers." — Daniel Lyons, Newsweek
300 million users. Valuation: $10 billion. "Cash-flow positive," in 2009. STATUS 20 million users. Valuation: $1 billion. "We spend more money than we make."
Share information with a closed group of friends. WHAT USERS DO Broadcast information to the world.
Landing page, fan page, custom tabs for support, shopping, and feedback. TOOLS FOR BRANDS Live search, direct replies to people tweeting about the brand.
Users surf the Best Buy inventory on the store's fan page, then click "Get Advice" to solicit feedback from all of their friends, via a news-feed post, about the products they're considering. DOING IT RIGHT Gabika99 @Starbucks Is there going to be a mobile app for those of us out here that avoid buying iPhones and iPods?
Starbucks @Gabika99 Yes, we're working on mobile apps on other platforms as well.
Procter & Gamble's Pringles has nearly 3 million fans but hasn't used any special tools or tabs — and hasn't posted since July. MISSING OUT Dell has more than 30 accounts (@DellOutlet, @StudioDell, @TeamDell, etc.), dividing followers and clogging feeds.
Burger King's Whopper Sacrifice app, which had users unfriend 10 people for a free Whopper, set the blogosphere ablaze. Before the app was disabled, more than 230,000 users were sacrificed. BUILDING BUZZ For 10 days, Web-site builder Moonfruit offered users who mentioned its name the opportunity to win a MacBook Pro. Its brand was Twitter's top trending topic for days, beating the Iran election.
Hasbro forced the hugely popular Scrabble knockoff app off Facebook and sued its creators. Thousands of users joined protest groups, such as Save Scrabulous and #$@(*& off, hasbro. BIG-NAME BLUNDER When Fox aired episodes of Fringe and Glee with a live Twitter-feed overlay, viewers tuned out and bloggers called it "annoying" and "intrusive." The experiment was discontinued.

A version of this article appeared in the December/January 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.