ATLANTA: Coca-Cola, the US soft drinks giant, is making increasing use of social media as both a brand-building and PR tool, as it seeks to find new ways to actively engage with consumers on digital platforms.

The beverage maker recently announced the details of Expedition 206, which will see three bloggers travel to the more than 200 countries where its eponymous cola brand is sold over the course of 2010.

In providing updates about their experiences, these "happiness ambassadors" will use a dedicated campaign website, as well as a range of Web 2.0 services like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.

More broadly, this scheme has already resulted in some major benefits within the company itself, having fostered an integrated approach between its marketing, PR and communications divisions.

Clyde Tuggle, Coca-Cola's svp, global public affairs and communications, said "the challenge that we put to the communications team was to think about the social and digital media space as a new venue for driving good public relations for the company."

This unit, which "has typically worked in the space of print media and broadcast media, was suddenly challenged to go into this new media space and come up with an idea to expand our brand," he added.

It will also be charged with coordinating the logistics behind Expedition 206 for each individual market concerned, which will require a number of Coke's regional arms to boost their capacity in this area.

The Atlanta-based firm's marketing team will also seek to incorporate this activity with events such as the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the World Cup in South Africa and the World Expo in Shanghai.

Moreover, the bloggers will play an active role in helping celebrate McDonald's 20th year of trading in Russia, in just one example of where this platform will extend beyond Coke's own brands.

While there will inevitably be issues to be resolved during year-long programme, Tuggle described the situation as a "muscle to be flexed and toned at Coca-Cola."

Metrics such as the number of pages viewed online, as well as the overall total of media impressions generated, will be used to assess how successful the campaign has been.

Normally, Coke is "not prepared to invest unless we know it's going to deliver," Tuggle continued, although he added there is "something seductive" about the more uncertain nature of its latest experiment.

Data sourced from AdAge; additional content by Warc staff