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Microsoft launch new-look MSN

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msn.jpgMicrosoft is set to launch an overhauled design for its web portal.

Social media and customisation are high on the agenda, with users able to import streams from both their Twitter and Facebook accounts. Video content will also feature more predominantly, as the site gets rid of its cluttered look of old. Bing, Microsoft's search engine, will also be a more prominent feature of the site.

With so many changes set to feature, Microsoft are planning a staggered release of the new-look site. With attracting huge numbers of visitors and the new design pushing Bing to the foreground, nailing an aesthetically pleasing design could swing the web-search wars Microsoft's way.

You can see a preview of the new site here. There's no news yet on when it will debut in the UK.

twitter-dollar.jpgThe Google and Bing search engines are set to feature results pooled from Twitter. The landmark licensing deals will represent the first major revenue stream for Twitter, a company notoriously tight-lipped about their business plans.

Bing and Google will now have access to the real-time "fire-hose" stream of micro-messages created by Twitter users around the globe. The real-time information will be invaluable to those looking for up-to-the-minute news, with Twitter now allowing the search robots full access to index its feed.

Links that are being re-tweeted often will likely move up the page rankings lists, and spikes in keywords too will affect results.

But will the search engines be able to ensure results are relevant, with so many thousands of messages being published every minute? Will the Twitter results be organised by publication time or the notoriety of the Twitter user?

While the answers to these questions pose the biggest problems for real-time search, a Beta version of Bing's integration of Twitter has already gone live. Test it for yourself (if you are in the US, the service isn't live in the UK at the moment) at .

myspace-logo.jpgIn a bid to play catch up with Facebook and Twitter, the guys at MySpace - remember them - are launching a wave of new music products for the social networking site.

At the Web 2.0 summit in San Francisco last night MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta announced several new MySpace Music services for users including a MySpace Music Videos product, MySpace Music Artist Dashboard and Apple/ iTunes integration.

MySpace Music Videos aggregates music video content from all of the company's major and independent label partners complete with video search to enables users to search by video and bring up artist profiles and songs. A new video player includes integrated "Buy" buttons so users can purchase artist's music through iTunes or Amazon.

MySpace's Music Artist Dashboard is a free, comprehensive data dashboard which provides global artists and labels with detailed analytics about their content within the MySpace community including charts, graphs, and snapshots. Data includes fan geography, song plays, profile views, friend count, and profile visitors.

Finally, MySpace Music users can now purchase and download music through iTunes in addition to Amazon MP3, and MP3 ringtones via Jamster.

Amplichoir.jpg Here's an interesting and simple idea - a bit like a Karaoke version of the Million Dollar home page guy meets those naff T-Mobile ads in Trafalgar Square.

Dell and MTV have joined together to produce Amplichoir. The idea is simple. You record yourself singing Lollipop (the music used in the Dell adverts of course) using a webcam and microphone and you can see and hear yourself by clicking on a thumbnail on the home screen.

Billed as the world's biggest karaoke, it's so far attracted around 500 people to participate. The incentive for people to take part - apart from the chance of singing a rubbishy, but very catchy, song out of tune? The chance to win VIP tickets to the European MTV Music Awards and afterparty in Berlin on November 5th.

The prize includes flights and accommodation for you and a friend, stretch limousine transfers to and from the airport and awards, champagne and flowers in your room when you arrive, dinner for two at Fischers Fritz (the only 2 Michelin Star restaurant in Berlin), a relaxing massage in the Regent Spa, make-up/hairdresser to get you looking good for the awards and after-party, and an EMA Award presented to you on the red carpet. So what are you waiting for? Time to dust off that miicrophone and croon with the best of them.

FourSquare iPhone app arrives in London

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102 phones_hp_just_iphone-thumb-240x229-92850.pngA mixture of Twitter, a city travel guide and location game, FourSquare was released in London yesterday, to an enthusiastic buzz, some confusion and a few unimpressed "mehs". The hypey new iPhone and Android app has already been set up in about 30 cities around the world, mostly in the US. What exactly does FourSquare do and should you really be interested in it?
So what does it do?
Well, Foursquare lets you see little comments and tips that people have left pegged to locations in London. You too can leave these tips reader, call them geo-tagged tweets if you will. Like some kind of game, you get rewarded for leaving more tips by being given badges. You set up a minimal profile, and add friends and can also contact your friends over the service.

What do people say?
Things other people have said include:
@The Bricklayers Arms "try the cherry beer" via David S.
@Ray's Jazz Cafe "Order the apple cake and sit on the leather chair" via Alexandra S.
You see the tips and shouts that are located near you, then there's a map showing the location of the venues. People genuinely have quite interesting things to say, though some are dumb. Like mine.

Should I be excited by FourSquare?
Well, if you're city-living networker who likes talking about what you do, AND have an iPhone AND the push notification is switched on, then yes Foursquare could be quite fun. The game aspect is interesting, visit and review enough pubs and you get a badge, perhaps the Crunked badge; range widely and leave tips and reviews all over London and get the Explorer badget. Visit somewhere enough and become the FourSquare Mayor of a location. In theory, this will keep people coming back.

I don't have any friends.
Ha ha. No seriously. It's a problem for the early adopters isn't it. But this lets you import friends from your email contacts, and better, from your twitter account. Yes, you're giving them a lot of information - phone number, email and err, where you are, but hey that's how it goes these days.

Who is going to like it?
Well the twitter crowd will find it similar to Twitter, just pegged to locations. The social networking is made a bit more interesting by the possibility of real networking. Passers-by might find it useful as a restaurant guide/ tips hoard - is that cherry beer any good?

Can I just add: the language is cute: "Uh-oh we can't find the internets".

What will people complain about?
1. It's not going to be loads of fun till everyone's doing it.
2. Foursquare is yet another what-to-do-in-a-city app, there are a lot of these already, and it's not much use if you don't live in London.
3. With the tips and shouts, there's the old User-Generated-Content debate - it can be great if the users are articulate and interesting, not so much if they're not.
4.There are a few privacy issues: you have to give a phone number and email address and (of course) information about your location. Only your friends get this, but not great if you're worried about crazy stalkers.

Will enough outgoing, iPhone-owning, London-living people use it? Will it just languish on page three of their iPhone home screen? I don't know. I think location-based games are fun though and expect some more developments here.

Story originally appeared on Shiny Shiny

twiter bird.jpgIt must be tough being Ev Williams at the moment. So your start up Twitter has taken over the world and you have just landed a further $100 million to shore up its technology and infrastructure. But now it seems inevitable that you will have to plaster your beloved online baby with ads.

Well according to a survey from Los Angeles-based research group Interpret LLC, Ev really shouldn't have too many sleepless nights as it concludes that if ads are placed on Twitter its users would happily click away.

The report suggests that Twitter users are twice as likely to review or rate products, visit online visit company profiles and click on advertisements or sponsors than Facebook or MySpace users are.

Interpret said the data suggest that Twitter users uniquely demonstrate higher engagement with brands.

"Twitter has gone from digerati fad to industry force," said Michael Gartenberg, vice president of strategy and analysis at Interpret, in the report."Vendors ignoring Twitter users along with their reach and influence do so at their own peril."

There has already been a great deal of debate in the UK on how brands' reputations have suffered after they have taken a kicking at the hands of micro bloggers.

So far Twitter founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone have been very tight lipped about how the company intends to make money. There has been talk of special services for business users, though so far no concrete details have been given.

Were Twitter to include ads on the site it would certainly turn it into one of the most profitable sites on the web. The problem for Williams and Stone is how many users will be put off by the ads and migrate to rival micro blogging services.

More here

thenext big sound.pngOne of the big issues facing the music industry at the moment is how does it work out who are the most popular musicians around? Working on the premise that the download chart will go the way of CD and record sales charts (as fewer people pay for music), it is clear that we need a new chart that maybe counts online streaming, band's fan pages views and more.

Well, The Next Big Sound might just be the template for the charts of tomorrow. It is a very clever site that lets you find out how popular bands are online. It does this by collating plays, views, fans, comments, and other data for almost half a million artists across major online properties, including iTunes,, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

It might sound boring, but believe me it is hugely entertaining and completely addictive - just input your favorite bands and away you go. It is not only fascinating to see if Lady Gaga is bigger online than our very own Florence and The Machine, but you can also compare four bands at a time - which is great for old geezers comparing obscure indie 80s bands etc. It is also interesting to note that the bands that generate the most comments and posts aren't always the ones that get played the most.

The only annoying thing about it is that it doesn't seem to let you save results. Def check it out though.

richard_bacon.jpgSo who is the most popular Briton on Twitter? Stephen Fry with his old pal Wossy close behind? Well no, there are some new, interesting and controversial names at the top now.

If you check the figures on Twitterholic you'll see Coldplay are the most popular micro blogging Brits by some distance. Last time I looked they were homing in on two million followers and had the likes of Miley Cyrus and Lance Armstrong in their sights. Coldplay's Twitter feed is an excellent example of how a brand can use social media to engage with their fans but as Coldplay are a band not an individual they don't count in my list.

Those rules also mean the next Briton on the list, Pete Cashmore, is out of the running too. The Scottish fella, who spends much of his time in San Francisco at the moment, is the brains behind Mashable, which these days is quite possibly the world's most influential tech blog.

So the first genuine Briton is none other than Lily Rose Allen who today will probably become the first Brit to pass 1.5 million followers on Twitter. She is currently in a mini spat with Chris Moyles, who in spite of thinking himself a big noise in the micro blogging world has only around 300,000 followers.

So Lily has top spot but who is bubbling under? Well the surprise package is singer songwriter Imogen Heap, who shot up over the summer while tweeting about her new album Ellipse. Unlike a lot of celebs she quite often follows back - and at the time of looking was logging 35,000 other tweeters as opposed to the 56 people that Lily Allen follows.

The other one to watch is a BBC presenter who has a Twitter following that Moyles can only dream about.

Richard P Bacon's rise to the top of Twitter tree hasn't been as meteoric as say Wossy, but he is steadily on his way to becoming the most popular Briton on twitter.

Self proclaimed minor celebrity Bacon hosts Radio Five Live's late night programme where for the last nine months he has mercilessly plugged Twitter and his own feed. To his credit Bacon was one of the first BBC radio presenters to realise that Tweeting is a fantastic way of interacting with an audience. So he will often use his feed to ask his listeners questions, plug the guests on the show and encourage fellow tweeters to express their opinions.

Bacon recently passed the one million followers mark, which ironically means that he now has more followers than listeners to his show. He is also well clear of other BBC celebs like Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross.

There's an interesting question mark over who actually owns Bacon's Twitter feed. In amassing over a million followers Bacon has become very influential on Twitter and is a gatekeeper to a huge and very receptive audience. Now just suppose he were to leave the BBC, he could be in a position to endorse brands etc on his feed for which he could potentially charge an awful lot of money. There has been a lot of noise recently about how much a Twitter follower is worth and so far no one has come up with a convincing formula. However an audience that large, that engaged and that accessible is a an ad person's dream.

Yet we shouldn't forget that the main reason why Bacon'sTwitter feed is so popular is that he has plugged it so relentlessly on his show. Also that Twitter is a privately owned company which will one day make its owners a lot of money. Further I have never ever heard Bacon say that 'along with Twitter other micro blogging services are available.' Isn't that BBC policy?

So do we the licence payers really own that feed, or does it belong to Richard Bacon? And what would happen to the BBC endorsing Twitter if suddenly the micro blogging service started peppering its pages with contextual advertising? If Twitter continues to grow these are questions that will soon need an answer.

Posterous ups the blogging ante

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posterous-screenshot-2.jpgOne of the big hits of 2009 as far as blogging is concerned has been Posterous. The easy peasy platform has won over both hardcore bloggers and newbies with its mix of a genius bookmarklet - that makes grabbing content from any web page a cinch - and the option of creating a post by email.

There are however several areas where Posterous is lagging behind its rivals and one of these was the ability to customise a blog layout. Up until last week every Posterous blog had the same layout and colour scheme. Well now Posterous users can add their banners, choose from different types of layout, adopt a theme and even create their own themes via HTML and CSS.

There are several other areas where Posterous needs to innovate to get ahead of its rivals, but for me at least it remains my favourite blogging platform.

Incidentally Posterous' rivals haven't been standing still. Typepad, which has been around for donkeys, recently added Posterous type features (the bookmarklet and posting by email) and we'll look at this and see how it compares with Posterous and its rival Tumblr later this week.

Now you can stream the Beatles - well sort of

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the-beatles jude.JPGSo there's no Beatles on iTunes and the Fab Four have so far resisted the lure of Spotify, which makes we7's announcement this morning that it actually has some Beatles tunes on its site a bit of a coup. According to Music Ally streaming/download start up has hatched a deal with Sir Paul McCartney to include his live versions of a load of Beatles classic. So while there's no Strawberry Fields or any other John classics, we7 users can stream Hey Jude, Eleanor Rigby and Yesterday and even embed them on other sites too

"The Beatles are everywhere today with the release of their newly remastered work and the launch of Beatles Rock Band - but to date, their catalogue has not been made available through any legal online music services," says CEO Steve Purdham. "we7 listens to what our users want and as a result, we're giving them the chance to listen to the best line up of classic Beatles tracks sung by Sir Paul himself. You just need to hit the play button!"

seesmic_610x445.jpgJust as Facebook is adding more and more Twitter style features and acquiring things like FriendFeed which collates Twitter activity, so more and more Twitter apps are enabling users to control their Facebook pages.

Probably the best of the bunch is Seesmic which today has announced an upgrade to its Facebook capabilities. Seesmic started out as a video based website, but then the company snapped up Twitter API company Twhirl and launched the very useful (over 2.5 million downloads so far) Seesmic Twitter app. It works in a similar way to our favourite Tweetdeck in displaying Twitter updates, replies and searches etc in a very easy to use grid format. You can also use Seesmic to update your Facebook page too. It also has very good web and mobile based services too.

The latest Facebook revamp - version 0.6 - is great news for people who control Facebook fan pages, What the app enables you to do is manage activity on Facebook's fan pages as well as personal profiles, so you can update them at the same time as you update your Twitter accounts. It'll be interesting to see how Seesmic's rivals, like Tweetdeck, respond.

Here's a comparison between Tweetdeck and Seesmic

uk-Sensia-Full-Size.jpgYou have apps on your PC and apps on your mobile. Now how about apps on your digital radio? Well Pure has made a very smart move by introducing a new model called the Sensia, which not only includes a 5.7inch 640x480 screen but also offers access to a growing set of custom apps. Among those lined up already are Facebook Twitter and weather and news channels.

As the unit has Wi-Fi on board it also tunes into internet radio stations while at the same time enables users to stream music from a PC. There's no news yet on apps for Spotify or Last FM, but they would be the cherry on the cake if they were added.

Pure is also very proud of its touch screen which it is billing as the most sophisticated ever seen on a radio, Apparently it enables the user to scroll and spin through lists, tap to select modes, slide control and swipe to change views,. In practice this means controlling menus for information about stations, album artwork and more.

Other features include 30W RMS of stereo sound, an input for an iPod/MP3 player, an alarm, a sleep timer, a headphone socket, a remote control and an optional rechargeable PURE ChargePAK

The Sensia, which goes on sale before Christmas for £249, is available in four colours: Bright red, vivid yellow, sleek black and cool white. It also comes with a moulded stand that allows the user to angle the radio to where they think it looks and sounds best.

Zuckerberg.jpgI bet Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has had a pretty broad grin on his face this week. For at the TechCrunch 50 conference in San Francisco the company announced it had reached two major milestones. Firstly it has passed 300 million worldwide members and secondly its monthly revenues now covered its costs and the company was starting to make money.

Zuckerberg had predicted that Facebook would be profitable by 2010 so it is starting to create income a few months ahead of scheduled. Making money in a period of economic downturn and, let's not forget, the most depressed period ever for online advertising revenue is itself a very impressive feat.

Nick O'Neill of told the BBC "If the company can cover the cost of scaling to one billion users and still manage to break even, there's no doubt that the company will have a great opportunity to rake in billions."

It ought to be added that while Facebook is now making more than enough to cover its costs, that doesn't include the money pumped into the site such as the £300 million it took from Russian investment vehicle Digital Sky Technologies.

Facebook has also had a huge growth spurt this year attracting another 50 million members in the last 75 days.This does of course beg the question - how big can Facebook get? Well much of its recent growth has been in its core markets of North American and Europe. Its levels of growth outside those spheres have been less impressive. There are some hot spots such as Indonesia, but in many big emerging country markets Facebook's growth is limited.

One of the problems it faces is that in key territories there are already local social networking sites that have a Facebook style stranglehold already. In Korea Cyworld, with its 24 million members, has managed to keep Facebook and its rivals at bay. In Central America the big player is Sonico and further south in countries like Argentina Hi5 sets the agenda. There are also problems for Facebook in China where the authorities apparently perceive the site as very western and a unwanted influence on its people. Ironically Friendster, the original social networking site which predates Facebook and Facebook, is now performing well in Asia.

They key then to Facebook's growth could prove to be India and its surrounding countries. It has been suggested that much of the reason for the launch of Facebook Lite last week was to push the social networking site in the region.

Zuckerberg and his team's other big problem is keeping notoriously fickle Westerners coming back to his site. The acquisition of FriendFeed and the move to incorporate Twitter-style micro blogging elements on the site show that Facebook is ready to meet challenges to its hegemony head on.

It is worth remembering though that every big social networking site so far has peaked and then started to fall. In the UK Friends Reunited had spectacular fall from grace. Now even MySpace is struggling to reconnect with its audience.

Facebook's one huge advantage over its rivals is the huge amount of content and data that users already have on their pages, so it makes it much harder for users to move to another site.

Overall though there may be a few wobbles in the Us and Europe in the next couple of years but with new markets emerging all the time Facebook is clearly going to continue to grow for sometime yet.

Silentale - Europe's hottest new start up?

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Silentale features-peoplebook.pngThe trouble with this shiny new digital world is that the information we create online tends to get scattered all over the place (email, Twitter, text, Google etc). Wouldn't it be better to have all your online chat (that sounds a bit Alan Partridge) in one place?

Well providing that type of online receptacle and more is the mission of a new French start up called Silentale which went into beta testing this week. It aims to keep all you digital conversations in one place, and I mean all of them. Once you sign up it aggregates everything you write from your email messages, Facebook updates, Twitter posts and even your text messages.

So why would you want this? Well you have probably had at least one occasion when you have been searching for an email from someone and not found it. Then later on you realised that you actually sent them a message via Twitter or even text from your mobile. Well the really smart thing that Silentale does is that it creates profiles for your contacts in an address book and then aggregates all the messages you sent them together. In other words you will be able to see at a glance all the different ways in which you have had a conversation with them.

The information will also be displayed in a timeline too so you will be able to search for a specific day and read the conversations you had then, or just see how busy you had been today.

The bit that has me most excited though is the service's Firefox extension. So when you are looking at social networking sites this automatically it detects who you are looking at and voila all your recent correspondence, as well as contact details of the person, pops up on the page. The extension currently works while browsing Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Viadeo, Hi5, Gmail, Hotmail/Live Mail, Yahoo Mail and AOL Mail.

The service will launch for free to begin with, but the catch is that you'll only be able to see two months archive at a time. If like me you want to go further back expect to pay a yearly subscription of around £30.

To me Silentale sounds like it has massive potential. It is one of those ideas that when you think about it you are shocked that it hasn't been done before. Like the best start ups it meets a very definite need and also has a very clear route to making money. If the technology works well Silentale could be huge.

Silentale is still in beta and invites are hard to come by, though you could always email them. There's a load more on TechCrunch Europe.

seatwave.gifNot long ago a Guardian writer claimed that the UK tech scene was being read its last rites. Well, according to the paper today that is a long way from the truth. The Guardian has published a list of what it sees as the top UK 100 tech companies along with a feature from TechCrunch UK editor Mike Butcher in which he claims there has never been a better time to create a start up.

As for the hot 100 you can see the list here. There aren't too many surprises in the top 10, though I know of a few people who will be highly irritated to see Seatwave make the top spot. The big winners include Spotify (hey the iPhone app is here), Moo (who make those ever so cools cards) and Mindcandy (cool multi player online games).

Most of the other 90 are either industry type start-ups like pioneering ad company Skimlinks and image search specialist Pixsta. The key consumery companies that make the list include VOIP service Truphone, music identifying service Shazam, virtual record company Slicethepie, Twitter aggregator Tweetmeme and online community builder Webjam.

woofer-thumb-240x235-92509.jpgOne of the reasons why I love Posterous so much is that I find it hard to say anything of any merit in 140 charactars on Twitter. Posterous enables me and others, to at least add a few words of our own to a link or a story which it then publishes on Twitter and Facebook for us.

So in theory I should be very excited about a new site that launched this week called Woofer. Woofer, however, is really just a practical joke albeit a rather good one. Instead of the 140 charactars that Twitter offers with Woofer you get 1400 charactars. However the fun bit is that if you don't reach 1400 charactars it won't let you post.

And while it may be a bit of an online gag at the moment, maybe it does have a use or two. The most popular post on there at the moment is called 'Four score and seven years' and is an inspiring segment of a speech from US President Abraham Lincoln. Some smart people have also nicked bits from speeches from the likes of Martin Luther King and Thomas Jefferson and even a para or two from novels by the likes of Charles Dickens. There are albums reviews and the odd rehashed blog post too. Of course a lot of what has been posted on Woofer is completely unreadable, but in some ways that's half the fun.

Just maybe the Woofer crew are on to something here. Maybe there is space for a Twitter type site where people add slightly longer posts. How about come classic bits of comedy? Some cool song lyrics? Anyone got any other cool ideas.

Friday review:

1 Comment's a site that has great potential. combines everything that's regarded as cool on the web at the moment: Google Maps, social shopping and Twitter/Twitpics. Or according to the blurb, "it's a location based social shopping that allows you to share photos/tweets." On paper it sounds like a winning combination, a vertitable internet supergroup especially if you trust other people's recommendations when it comes to buying stuff (I don't). Just one problem. It's very difficult to get excited about it - yet.

Google Docs to get redesign


Google-Docs-interface-at-a-glance.jpgGoogle Docs, the world's most successful online word processor, is to get a redesign, or revamp, or rejig. Well it'll be one, other, or most probably, an almalgm of these.

The 'pre-announcement' announcement on the Google Docs Blog (which isn't very interesting), comes hot-on-the-heels of Microsoft unveiling its plans for Office 2010. Plans that include a new web-based component, designed to directly take on Docs.

Google's counterpunch comes in the form of a promise that their redesign will make sharing more intuitive. The practical upshot of which is that users might notice some malfunctioning modules over the next couple of days.

Do you think that Office 2010 will claw back the market share they've lost to Docs? I'm writing this article, about Docs, on Docs, which is frankly, not as weird as it sounds. Will you be moving back to Office? Answers in the comments chums.

(Via TechCrunch)

A Facebook engineer has been spotted tweeting from an application called Penguin FB, as you can see in the picture, and it doesn't take a genius to work out that the FB probably is probably short for Facebook.

So, putting two and two together combined with denials from Facebook and the removal of the tweet by engineer Ross Blake, there's a very good chance that this was a test of a Twitter application on Facebook which allows users to tweet directly from the world's biggest social network.

The move would be in line with Facebook's drive to get in on the act in some way, whether that be by aping Twitter or, in this case, by trying to hold on to a lot of the traffic through the API. Doubtless, we'll hear more about it soon.

(via Facebook Insider)

best-buy-shop.jpgUS stack 'em high, sell e'm cheap tech mega store Best Buy recently put out a job ad with a difference. Applicants for the role of "senior manager - emerging media marketing" were required to have two years plus of mobile media experience, one year plus of blogging experience, a bachelors degree and 250 Twitter followers.

Before you start applying - popular web 2.0 people that you are - the position has already been filled, but it's certainly a very interesting ask in this day and age. For a senior social media manager, I'd say it was probably a far enough demonstration of an experience and understanding of the most important social app of the moment. Besides, the head honcho of Best Buy, Brian Dunn, has 1,679 followers himself.

Even if you're not in marketing - if, perhaps, a journalist - then one might consider it equally important. It's rather like a contacts list. Essentially, how many eyes can you attract to whatever it is that you do. How many people can you draw to the work that your company does?

So, is this something that we're going to start putting on our CVs? Is that how people should be viewing Twitter? What do you reckon? Let me know in the comments below. You can also boast about how many followers you do/do not have.

(via Brand Republic)

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