NEW YORK: Dell, JCPenney and Apple are among the companies making increased use of social media services like Facebook and Twitter in an attempt both to connect with consumers and drive sales.

According to Dell, its various internet-based activities – covering everything from Web 2.0 portals to its own online communities like Direct2Dell and IdeaStorm – reach an audience of 3.5 million people worldwide.

The Texas-bases firm also reported earlier this month that it has generated revenues of $6.5 million (€4.4m; £4.0m) across its portfolio of computers, software and accessories via its presence on Twitter.

It established a corporate profile on the microblogging utility in 2007, and now has more than 100 members of staff contributing to 35 accounts.

These efforts cover 12 countries ranging from Japan and the US to Mexico and Brazil, with "tweeters" in the latter of these markets having spent a total of $800,000 in the last eight months.

More broadly, for the three months to December, the number of "fans" of the computer manufacturer on Twitter has increased by 23%, to 1.5 million overall.

As such, while the San Francisco-based site may not be delivering substantial financial payback as yet, Manish Mehta, vp of Dell's online operations, suggested it is a key way of driving customer engagement.

"It's a very vibrant channel for us and it's growing aggressively," said Mehta. "It's not just our reach and growth that has progressed, it's that it's happening globally."

Figures from Comscore have also shown that 28% of Americans said their holiday purchases have been influenced by content featured on social networks like Facebook.

"We are getting our first real glimpse at the impact social media will play on commerce as we enter the next decade," said Gian Fulgoni, chairman of the research firm.

"Having a social media marketing strategy makes sense for retailers in this environment, because it's cost-effective and shows an effort to get closer to one's customers."

JCPenney, the mid-market apparel chain, has over 620,000 "fans" on Facebook and 3,200 "followers" on Twitter, and has heightened its visibility on both of these platforms in recent times.

Among the options available for visitors to its brand page on Facebook are making recommendations to their contacts, as well as sharing their stories about buying gifts.

Nick Bomersbach, director of, said "our customers are spending a lot of time connecting with each other in these online communities, and we want to be there."

"Oftentimes they're talking about brands and JCPenney, and we want to have an open avenue to have that dialogue."

Kodak, the photography and printing specialist, currently has 47,000 “friends” on Facebook, while 13,000 netizens are tracking its posts on Twitter.

It has built an application on the former of these two websites, enabling members to produce their own photo albums, as well as send messages and images to each other.

Apple, the consumer electronics giant, also launched an "app" for this same audience this week, allowing users to produce customised gift cards for its iTunes music service.

These cards can then be passed on to the intended recipient either through Facebook itself, or via email, with the ability to set the day when it should be delivered.

Tom Arrix, vp, US sales at Facebook, said "the momentum continues this holiday season as companies really start to value two-way communication," with "social shopping" being at the heart of this trend.

Data sourced from Bloomberg/Washington Post; additional content by Warc staff