World Cup celebrities praise S.Africa on Twitter

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Hosting the first World Cup in the age of Twitter, South Africa has discovered unexpected benefits in its campaign to market the country in record-setting posts by celebrities and fans alike.

South Africa spent 100 million dollars on its marketing campaign, taking out television commercials around the globe.

But glowing comments on Twitter and Facebook by legendary sportsmen, Hollywood stars and ordinary fans are having just as big an impact, said Miller Matola, chief of Brand South Africa, a government agency tasked with marketing the country abroad.

"Social media has revolutionalised the word of mouth marketing. We are thrilled by the kind of feedback some celebrities have giving to the world about the country," Matola said.

"People tend to trust information that comes from their idols. What they say is like some sort of a stamp of approval."

Twitter said Friday that World Cup football kicked the number of "tweets" fired off at the micro-blogging service to a record of 3,283 per second, a high hit right after Japan beat Denmark 3-1.

The normal rate of tweets averages 750 per second, according to the company, which has warned users to expect outages as it copes with the heavy traffic during the World Cup.

With South Africa hoping to use the tournament to transform its image overseas, the country is beaming as celebrities share scenic pictures of top tourism sites and vow to come back., of the music group Black Eyed Peas, posted pictures of himself and singer Alicia Keys celebrating South Africa's first goal at the opening match, and enthused: "20 years ago no one would have never thought the whole world would come to south africa for world cup...this is historic".

They were among the litany of celebrities who visited South Africa for the tournament, including British Princes William and Harry, hip-hop artist K'Naan, rapper R Kelly, Mick Jagger of Rolling Stones fame and former supermodel Kimora Lee Simmons.

The model gushed to her fans about the city, posting pictures of the landmark Table Mountain from her room.

On her departure, Kimora promised to come back and stay longer.

"I am very sad 2 b leaving the gorgeous S.Africa! Thank u 2 all 4 ur luv and kindness! We'll b back very, very soon! Team Fabulosity SA rocks," she said.

Singer Akon declared his love for the country and the continent by posting mini-videos shot at different locations around South Africa.

"South Africa rocks, this is the place to be," the star said on Twitter.

"Thank You S. Africa!!," said R Kelly on his departure.

Distinctly South Africa words like vuvuzela, the noisy plastic horn which has become a signature sound at World Cup matches have become a trending topic on Twitter.

Even world football president Sepp Blatter has a Twitter account where he enthuses about the games and the organisation of the event.

But a researcher at IMM Graduate School of Marketing warned that the celebrity social-networking hype could easily fizzle if not supported by aggressive mainstream marketing.

"These avenues only create a short-term hype, there is still a strong need for diverse marketing," said Tony Chetty.