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Flirtomatic partners with MetroPCS for U.S. launch

Flirtomatic Inc., a social networking site with a presence in Europe and Australia, has partnered with MetroPCS Wireless Inc. to bring the platform to the United States.

As part of the partnership, Flirtomatic has been selected as MetroPCS’ preferred mobile social networking service amd will be featured on the carrier’s deck. The service is free, but consumers can buy Flirt Points, Flirtomatic currency to send their friends virtual gifts and access additional premium features.

“We previously did a soft launch through off-deck advertising and added 75,000 users,” said Gary Cohen, vice president and general manager of North America at Flirtomatic, San Francisco. “Once we go on-deck in Europe we tend to get 10 times the number of users than through off-deck advertising.

“We fit really well into what the MetroPCS marketing strategy is, so going to Metro, getting this deal done and launching Flirtomatic on their deck helps them as well,” he said.

Flirtomatic is a mobile social networking service primarily used by 18-30-year-olds with more than 1.5 million registered users. The service is free and available across the U.S., Britain, Germany and Australia.

While the initial service is free, consumers can buy Flirt Points and add on special features and send virtual gifts.

More than 4 million virtual gifts were sent in the last year.

Besides virtual gifts such as a rose or a massage, Flirt Points let Flirtomatic users see who has rated them and promote themselves by making their profiles more visible to the other users.

Currently, Flirtomatic’s mobile users use the service about seven times a day and send more than 30 messages each day. The usage amounts to more than 30 million messages sent per month and more than 160 million WAP-page impressions.

Mr. Cohen said that because MetroPCS operates on a pay-in-advance model, there was no real way to charge for extras, since Flirt Points in other countries are billed right to the phone bill, until MetroPCS introduced MetroConnect.

With MetroConnect, consumers can buy more features to add to their prepaid service.

“We’re the first high-traffic, high-volume partner on the data side, and we’re excited about the ability for both sides to monetize these MetroPCS users in a way never done before,” Mr. Cohen said.

Mr. Cohen said that Flirtomatic’s competitors generally operate on a monthly recurring charge of $1.99 to $3.99 per month, or they charge per SMS or tack on other charges. But, Mr. Cohen said that in terms of monetization, his company has done better than any other social network.

“We’ve done better globally than anyone in terms of monetization,” Mr. Cohen said. “We’re like Facebook – it’s a social network where people are building profiles and can chat freely.

“We charge for added services that 15 percent of our base is buying Flirt Points for,” he said. “The virtual currency is used to buy gifts and for users to position themselves with greater visibility.

“People are spending money on vanity services to make themelves appear better, as well as mobile alerts.”

Dan Butcher contributed reporting to this story.