NEW YORK: Advertisers including Ford, Levi's and Comcast are making increased use of social media services such as Facebook and Twitter both to promote their products and as a tool through which to respond to queries from their customers.
Ford will launch the latest Fiesta in the US next year, and has put interactive media at the heart of its strategy to increase awareness of the new model prior to its formal introduction.
In April, the auto giant gave 100 influential bloggers a Fiesta to drive for six months, with the sole requirement that they add a new video to YouTube, the video-sharing portal, each month offering their honest opinions regarding the car.
Similarly, it has encouraged this group to openly discuss their views on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, as it seeks to generate a "buzz" before the vehicle goes on sale in early 2010.
Scott Monty, the automaker's head of social media, argued this approach was "extremely important to this company's history."
"It's about culture change and adapting to this ongoing way of communicating. The bloggers are fully free to say what they want," he said.
Earlier this year, Levi's, the jeans manufacturer, launched Go Forth, a campaign developed by Wieden+Kennedy, and which aimed both to tap into the brand's long history and refresh its image for contemporary consumers, particularly young men.
Alongside traditional media, Levi's employed Facebook and Twitter, and built a website encouraging people to submit their own pictures, poems, audio and video content, some of which will ultimately be featured in a "live gallery show".
With regard to using social media, Megan O'Connor, the brand's director of digital marketing, said it was "an easy call. This is where our customers are."
Late last year, Papa John's, the restaurant chain, offered a free pizza to each member of Facebook who opted to become its "friend", resulting in some 150,000 netizens according it such a status.
Overall, Papa John's now has a total of 300,000 fans on the popular social network, and hopes to more than triple this number by the end of 2009.
Comcast was one of the first companies to use Twitter for customer relationship management purposes, having established a presence on the microblogging utility over a year ago.
Its Twitter account, @comcastcares, now has nearly 30,000 followers, and provides web users with an alternative means to communicate with the firm outside of its call center operations.
However, according to Charlene Li, founder of the Altimeter Group, corporate entities like "Ford and Levi's are at the avant-garde of social media use, but they are not typical."
The consultancy recently released a ranking of the brands which it regarded as currently making the best use of social media, with Starbucks and Dell taking the joint top honours.
However, while many marketers are seeking to use this emerging channel as a means to connect with consumers, a
Data sourced from USA Today; additional content by WARC staff