NEW YORK: Dell, Alberto Culver and Ally Bank are among the brand owners making the most effective use of digital channels to reach consumers, according to Forrester, the insights provider.

Dell, the IT giant, was recognised for establishing a Listening Command Center to track online feedback which has speeded up customer response times and enhanced new product development.

The company's Trade Secrets platform also involves proactively contacting small and medium-sized firms, targeting influencers that have used its goods and stimulating debate about commercial issues.

"By using social networks to listen and engage with our customers wherever they are, we can help them accomplish whatever matters the most to them," Karen Quintos, Dell's CMO, said. "Building and nurturing these deep relationships ... is what grounds every aspect of our business."

Elsewhere, Ally Bank, the financial services group, was praised for activities including the "Idea Share" Facebook app asking web users to submit suggestions as to how banking could be improved.

The organisation has participated in more than 7,000 "social conversations" on Facebook, Twitter and its Straight Talk blog during 2011 to date, driving a 38% increase in "mentions" on such sites.

"We put our customers at the center of everything we do - whether it is product development, the services we offer or the ways we engage with consumers," Sanjay Gupta, chief marketing officer of Ally Financial, said.

Also receiving credit from Forrester was Alberto Culver, the haircare brand, for its online hub dedicated to generating insights, devised in partnership with Communispace.

Through this platform, Alberto Culver launched a co-creation scheme resulting in the advent of TRESemmé Fresh Start dry shampoo, rolled out in January 2010 and posting full-year sales of $7.7m.

"We have been able to leverage our hair care beauty community on so many fronts - from early-on identification of needs and getting deeper into the female hair care psyche, all the way through to packaging and communication optimization for initiatives going into market," Cynthia Nelson, senior manager, global haircare for Alberto Culver, said.

RadioShack, the retailer, took plaudits for its "Holiday Heroes" campaign, combining promoted Twitter trends, a tie-up with FourSquare and TV ads, delivering a 38% lift in Twitter followers in 12 days.

"RadioShack is committed to test, learn and embrace innovative ways to connect with consumers and this award reflects those efforts," said Lee Applbaum, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for RadioShack.

Data sourced from Forrester; additional content by Warc staff