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Ad.ly: The Company Behind Charlie Sheen on Twitter

Wednesday, 2 Mar 2011 | 3:28 PM ET
Charlie Sheen
Source: NBC
Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen has taken his media tour beyond the broadcast networks to the twitterverse!

Sheen joined Twitter yesterdayand within hours amassed hundreds of thousands of followers before he sent a single tweet. Now he claims nearly 900,000 followers, making him one of the fastest-rising Tweeters ever.

But Sheen didn't make this move on his own—a company called Ad.ly is responsible for Sheen's move to the micro-blogging site.

Ad.ly(pronounced "Ad-lee") is a celebrity endorsement service which matches celebrities including Kim Kardashian, 50 Cent, and Snoop Dog, with advertisers ranging from Best Buy to American Airlines. Sheen's management is friendly with Ad.ly's celebrity coordinator and reached out to Ad.ly yesterday morning, looking for help setting up Sheen's Twitter presence. CEO Arnie Gullov-Singh just told me that Ad.ly is considered the "go-to guys in Hollywood" to educate celebrities how best to use social media and within a few hours Ad.ly coached Sheen and his managers on how Twitter and services like bit.ly and twitpic work. And ad.ly connected with Twitter to set up the account and verify it as the real Charlie Sheen.

Sheen has posted photos of himself with a number of brands, including Naked Juice, which is owned by Pepsi and DirecTV , but Ad.ly tells me that none of his tweets so far have been sponsored. Even the twitpics that look like ads are *not* Ad.ly endorsements So far he's just doing his own thing and building up his audience. And so far Ad.ly hasn't been compensated for its help to Sheen. Ad.ly helped him out with the understanding that if he wants to monetize his presence on Twitter or Facebook down the line, he'll work with the company. Gullov-Singh says it's too soon to say how huge Sheen's audience will be, but that considering he has a powerful brand and starred in the #1 sitcom, he would be a promising client, saying he "looks forward to working with him."

Here's how Ad.ly works: It regularly works with about 1,000 celebrities in its network, some had huge audiences when they joined, others had small audiences and have built them up over time. Ad.ly brings a package of 10-50 celebrities who could Tweet or post Facebook status updates to advertisers like Toyota or Best Buy. If an advertiser wants to market at scale on Facebook or Twitter, this service allows to do just that — they can deploy dozens of messages about their product from different celebrities within a single day. Marketing through just one celebrity wouldn't give advertisers any sort of scale, but by packaging a slew of celebs, they start to get efficiency, which is why Gullov-Singh says Ad.ly is gaining momentum as an effective way to market through social media.

Ad.ly pay celebrities get paid a flat fee per status update on Facebook on Tweet on Twitter. Ad.ly decides how much to pay based on a set of factors including their number of Twitter followers or Facebook fans and a measure of how "engaged" those fans are. Ad.ly runs endorsements, it looks at the performance of of the messages (how many times a Tweet is "re-tweeted") and adjusts pricing.

The more followers Sheen draws the more appealing he'll be to companies looking for celebrity endorsers. His wacky bad boy reputation means he's certainly not a mainstream pick for an endorsement, but for the right kind of product (Red Bull?) marketers could be willing to pay up. It's worth noting that none of the advertisers on Two and a Half Men jumped ship after Sheen's drug-driven antics began.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.