SAN FRANCISCO: Coca-Cola, Ford and Microsoft are among a number of major advertisers that have joined a new paid-for service, launched by CoTweet, that aims to help marketers manage their activities on Twitter, the microblogging portal, more effectively.

Social media sites have become increasingly popular with firms ranging from PepsiCo and CNN to TIAA-CREF, all of which are looking to engage with consumers on the web.

While a best practice approach to utilising this emerging medium has yet to develop, Facebookreported in August that 80% of America's biggest companies had a presence on its pages.

Among the facilities offered by CoTweet's Enterprise Innovator Program are tools that assess the reach "tweets" posted by brands achieve among users of the social messaging utility.

It will also analyse how engaged people are with products, such as by measuring response rates and times to messages, and identifying the most "active" netizens where specific goods are concerned.

Further metrics will include establishing the social media influence of both corporations and individual consumers by category and specific subject areas.

Prices for these various offerings start at $1,500 (€998; £895) a month, with McDonald's, SunTrust and Whole Foods also having signed up to take part in CoTweet's initiative.

Ford, the automaker, has been particularly active in the digital space in recent times, from using bloggers to promote its latest Fiesta model to building various brand hubs on Facebook and Twitter.

Scott Monty, its digital and multimedia communications manager, said "in social media, the experience you give people on their first effort to reach you had better be the way you want them to remember you."

"CoTweet helps us engage customers in authentic two-way conversations that ensure we're consistent and coordinated as a team and that we leave a positive impression."

McDonald's, the fast-food chain, has also employed the rapidly-growing Web 2.0 property for customer relationship management purposes, and to provide offers and promotions to customers.

The quick service specialist estimates that it is mentioned at least once every 20 seconds on Twitter, and is also considering introducing localised feeds to serve the individual markets in which it operates.

Should it choose to follow this approach, the San Francisco-based website will "be even more important for us," according to Heather Oldani, its director of US communications.

One of the key elements of CoTweet's programme is that all of the companies involved are from different market segments, and will each play a key role in establishing how its service develops going forward.

Robert Ross, relationship and planning manager, enterprise client, at SunTrust, the bank, said "we'll be among other what we consider premium brands, one per industry, so we'll be able to help define what is a very nascent usage of this particular channel."

"It was definitely key for me that our competitors will not have access to our learnings throughout this process," he added.

Twitter has previously announced its in

Data sourced from CoTweet/Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff