NEW YORK: Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Disney are among the brands currently making the best use of Facebook, the social network, to connect with consumers, according to a new study.

While marketers are becoming more active on a wide variety of social media services, The Big Money, which produced the Facebook 50 report, said the Palo Alto-based portal has some distinct advantages.

These include the size of its membership – estimated to stand at some 300 million people worldwide – as well as excellent levels of return usage, and a diverse range of tools that are available for companies.

Brands only qualified for the rankings if they had at least 200,000 "fans", and were rated in terms of overall engagement, how fast their audience had grown, and the creativity of their approach.

Coca-Cola took top spot, despite the fact its presence on the web property was originally established by two brand advocates, and while the company has since taken a more formal role, it remains largely "hands off".
It now has around 4 million fans, and has uploaded a mixture of links to iPhone applications and videos, but was argued to retain "an organic fan-centric page without a corporate feel."

Starbucks, in second, was rated by the Altimeter Group as one of the most successful firms in the interactive space earlier this year, and is also the most popular brand on Facebook, with over 5 million fans.

It has previously formed an alliance with Unilever, the FMCG giant, to give away its recently-launched ice cream to members of the platform, alongside running several other such schemes.

Disney was in third, and has 2.1 million followers, who have added more than 3,000 of their own photos to its page, demonstrating comparably high level of engagement.

Victoria's Secret, the lingerie specialist, has two accounts on Facebook – one dedicated to its Pink label and one to its trademark brand – and regularly posts updates, discounts, photos and videos.

iTunes, the music service operated by Apple, closed out the top five, and boasts 2.2 million fans, having generated around half this total within a week of going live on Facebook in April this year.

Vitaminwater, owned by Coca-Cola, was in sixth, with YouTube, Chick-fil-A, Red Bull and TGI Friday's making up the top ten.

James Ledbetter, editor of The Big Money, said "as you delve into what makes companies like Coca-Cola so popular, it becomes clear that Facebook can be a very effective substitute for corporate activities - like direct mail - that might appear to have nothing to do with social media."

Competitions were regarded as one highly effective way of attracting an audience, but the Facebook 50 report suggested there are other techniques that can be employed to achieve this aim.

Audi was credited with hosting a campaign that asked netizens to make suggestions regarding the design of its S5 Coupe, as well as surveying its fans to find out what they wanted from its Facebook page.

H&M has made frequent use of polls to drive this kind of "buzz", while Best Buy has offered product details and the ability to share information online, and Dunkin Donuts promotes a "fan of the week."

Similarly, Kohl's and JCPenney were both said to have enjoyed upticks in in

Data sourced from The Big Money; additional content by Warc staff