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Facebook takes on Twitter as it re-jigs profiles for celebs and charities

LONDON - Facebook has made changes to its status update and the pages used by famous musicians, TV stars and politicians, allowing them to broadcast messages to their fans.

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Read Gordon's Republic blog post -- Facebook readies Twitter fightback.

Reacting to the threat of Twitter, Facebook is to revamp its key homepage status update feature to ensure it is able to capture a slice of the growing real time web movement, which is being led by Twitter.

It has changed its status prompt, which currently asks users "What are you doing right now?" to "What's on your mind?".

It hopes this will encourage its millions of users to write more engaging updates rather than "John is updating his status update".

Changes to the pages used by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama or U2 will become more like regular user profiles so they can engage more closely with the public, allowing fans to comment on status updates and photos.

This move is also designed to counteract the more democratic nature of profiles on Twitter where celebs and non-celebs have the same profiles.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy, cyclist Lance Armstrong and publications such as The New York Times all hold public pages and will now be able to reach their audience more directly, broadcasting messages and engaging in conversations happening on the site.

Facebook currently has a cap of 5,000 friends for such pages. It plans to lift this so that celebs can add many thousands more as they do on Twitter.

Users's news feeds, which currently streams updates from their friends' pages, will include the latest information from the celebrities they are following, which may include photos and videos as well as status updates.

Comic Relief is another of the high-profile organizations to have a public profile, and Chris Ward, creative communications director of the charity, is hoping it will help raise funds for this year's campaign.

Ward said: "We are incredibly excited about our new Facebook public profile for the Red Nose Day 09 campaign, which allows us to connect and engage with our supporters.

"Our new presence on Facebook also helps us build vital awareness for our cause and ultimately raise even more money to fight poverty and disadvantage at home and in Africa."

Facebook is guiding public figures and organizations through the sign-up process, offering top tips on how to create the most effective page, with the newly designed pages coming into effect from March 11.

Read Gordon's Republic blog post -- Facebook readies Twitter fightback.

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