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Deals aid Twitter growth overseas

– Turkish pop sensation Murat Boz is closing in on 2 million followers on Twitter, a sign that the U.S.-based microblogging service is gaining popularity overseas as growth slows in its home market.

Boz – and Twitter – began getting added attention in Turkey after the San Francisco company reached a deal with wireless carrier Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri that lets users send short tweets from their handsets at no charge.

The pact represents a central ingredient of Twitter’s push for new users while preparing for an initial public offering. The company is targeting expansion in Asia, South America and the Middle East, where many people access the Web over inexpensive feature phones, rather than high-priced smartphones. By developing simpler versions of its application and landing deals with mobile carriers and device makers, Twitter is making its service cheaper and easier to use.

“We need to deliver a more compelling product for low-end devices,” Dick Costolo, Twitter’s CEO, said in an email.

It’s harder to get applications onto feature phones than it is to deliver them to smartphones, whose users can easily download new software onto Apple iPhones and Google Android devices through an online store. Putting Twitter on less-advanced phones requires tweaks to the software and navigating a thicket of regional players, Costolo said in November.

By promoting Twitter Turkcell is getting customers to spend more time on the Web and paying more for mobile data. In return, Twitter is adding new users, helping it sell advertising to marketers around the world.

“Our number of mobile Twitter users has increased threefold” since the partnership, said Emre Sayin, chief consumer business unit officer at Turkcell. “These users have also generated revenue by clicking on photos and visiting other links that were shared in tweets.”

Twitter has partnered with about 250 operators in more than 100 countries, including India, Pakistan, Mexico, Brazil and the Philippines.

In some cases, customers can freely read and post tweets without incurring data charges. In other deals, operators just waive text-messaging charges.

Jana Messerschmidt, the Twitter vice president of business development and platform relations who’s leading the global effort, said Twitter’s international popularity is a selling point in negotiations.

“They are looking for compelling, sticky services that are going to drive users to use either Internet on their phone for the first time or use more data services than they used before,” Messerschmidt said.

She declined to discuss any deal terms.

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