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Shaq’s Retirement Drives 500k Viewers to Tout in 3 Hours

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Shaquille O’Neal made huge waves in the social media world today by officially announcing his retirement online. And while many have suggested that O’Neal’s announcement was a testament to the power of Twitter, it was actually six-week old social video startup Tout that hosted the video in which Shaq told the world he wasn’t returning to basketball.

Shaq and Tout have been preparing for this day for a while. The basketball star contacted Tout about a month ago to let them know he planned to use its service for the announcement. And today’s video on Tout is no fluke, as the now-retired basketball superstar plans to continue using the application to interact with his fans.

“We launched about six weeks ago, and about two weeks in apparently Shaq had stumbled upon [the app]. I got a call from one of his management team — originally I didn’t think it was real — and he said Shaq was going to become an active user and wanted to make a big announcement,” Tout CEO Michael Downing told us in a phone interview. Anticipating a huge spike in traffic, Tout’s six employees have spent the last four weeks making sure the startup had enough resources to handle it.

Shaq’s announcement, which helped drive more than half a million video viewers to the site in just a few hours according to Downing, is only the beginning of his relationship with Tout. Since making his retirement official, he’s gone back to the service a couple more times to send a personal video message to sportswriter Jim Rome and to ask fans what his new nickname should be.

“Shaq’s got a lot of different things going on, but he’s told us that this is his personal media network and he’s going to be using us to promote everything else he’s doing,” Downing told us. Shaq has also agreed to join the startup’s advisory board.

Tout allows users to broadcast short video clips on the web. We were initially skeptical of the concept when we checked it out pre-launch, but it’s gone through some refinements since then. For one thing, it’s lengthened the amount of time you have to record a video clip to 15 seconds, from its original 11 seconds. But the mission remains the same: to create a service whereby users can share important moments with their friends.

Now that Shaq’s on board, Tout has a very big proponent in its corner, in more ways than one. The 7’1″ basketball legend has more than 3.8 million Twitter followers and 2 million Facebook fans, some of whom Tout hopes will follow him to begin using the service. We’ve seen the impact that the addition of celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Conan O’Brien have had on social media, but the question remains whether some of Shaq’s Twitter magic will carry over to Tout.

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