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Marketing company sells clients Facebook friends

The service from uSocial is mostly meant for businesses, celebrities and other individuals looking to expand on the social network, and Facebook isn’t happy about it.

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For sale: Facebook friends

LOIC VENANCE/AFP

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On Facebook, most people make friends the old-fashioned way — by sending a request to be added to someone’s posse of pals. Now, an Australian marketing company hopes to save you time and energy by simply buying you a few thousand buddies.

The service from uSocial is mostly meant for businesses, celebrities and other individuals looking to expand on the social network, and Facebook isn’t happy about it.

Under the service, which launched this week, 1,000 new Facebook friends cost less than $200. For 5,000 Facebook friends — the maximum allowed by that site — uSocial charges $727, though through mid-September, the promotional rate is $654.30.

The service can also help companies accumulate fans — Facebook-speak for the users who acknowledge liking a person, business or idea on the site.

Leon Hill, the 24-year-old founder of Brisbane, Australia-based uSocial, said businesses and other clients are essentially buying a base of potential customers.

“We are getting, basically, targeted friends and fans who are saying, ’Yes, I want information on this,”’ Hill said in a phone interview, adding that friends and fans can always change their minds and sever ties whenever they want.

He said businesses are interested in his service because they are realizing that social media Web sites can help generate buzz more quickly, cheaply and effectively than online ads and more traditional types of advertising.

Hill said friends are all gathered manually.

USocial logs in to a client’s Facebook profile or creates a new one. It seeks out people who would be a good fit — like car buffs if uSocial is trying to promote a specialty auto-parts company — and sends them friends requests tailored to that business. The requests don’t mention that uSocial is working on behalf of the business.

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