Want 5,000 More Facebook Friends? That'll Be $654.30

USocial Will Sell You Followers and Friends

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- If you're a Gmail user who also happens to use Twitter, it's probably been about five minutes since you've seen an ad promising to boost your follower count. The folks at online ad firm uSocial are taking that a step further: Pay them money and they'll make you at least appear to be very big on Facebook. In fact, they'll deliver you 5,000 Facebook "friends" for 7.6 cents per friend ($654.30), or up to 10,000 Facebook "fans" for a mere 8.5 cents a fan ($1.167.30).

USocial has been in the Twitter-follower game for a while but is adding Facebook friends and fans to its offering today, per a press release declaring the adage "You can't buy your friends" to be incorrect, at least when it comes to Facebook. It claims that since each Facebook friend or fan is worth $1 per month, buyers will make back their investment many times over in the first month (it's unclear how it came up with that number).

"Facebook is an extremely effective marketing tool, as anyone with a large number of targeted friends or fans can attest to," uSocial founder and CEO Leon Hill said in the release. "The only problem is that it can be extremely difficult to achieve such a following, which is where we come in."

Facebook's terms of service prohibit the use of "personal profiles for commercial gain," so if uSocial is paying people to pimp out their profiles, Facebook could pull the plug. Spokesman Brandon McCormick said the company is taking a hard look at uSocial's offering and deciding what, if anything, to do about it.

Digg tried to get Mr. Hill to stop gaming the social news site's voting system with a cease-and-desist order last spring, which Mr. Hill, a Brisbane, Australia, resident, basically laughed off, calling it a "scare tactic." At the time, Mr. Hill told the Los Angeles Times that the U.S. Marines and the Mormon Church were among clients paying for Digg votes and, thus, page placement. Since then, he's added the ability to buy votes on Yahoo Buzz, which can get items on the Yahoo home page, as well as social news sites StumbleUpon and Propeller.

The rates: $150 for 3,470 Digg votes or 1,084 Yahoo Buzz votes, though uSocial's website says it's temporarily not taking any new business while it is "clearing an order queue ... due to payment processing errors."

For the record, Twitter followers are a little pricier than Facebook friends, and there's no bulk discount: about 11 cents a follower in batches of 1,000 or 28 cents a follower for a batch of 100,000 (which can take 365 days to fulfill). But according to uSocial, Twitter followers, while great for the ego, are tough to monetize. The higher cost aside, Twitter followers are worth just 10 cents a month, according to uSocial (again, where this projection comes from is not clear), so it will take at least two months to recoup the investment on new followers.

Of course, if the beauty of marketers participating in social networks is that they're a good way to directly connect to a brand's consumers and fans, engendering loyalty and offering better customer service, purchasing friends and followers seems counterproductive. So maybe money can buy you friends and fans, but as Paul McCartney said, it can't buy you love.

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