NEW DELHI: Companies like PepsiCo, Vodafone and Mahindra & Mahindra are prioritising the free tools offered by Facebook rather than its advertising services as they try and engage Indian shoppers.

PepsiCo, the food and beverage group, has used display ads on the site, but prioritises ideas like competitions on the social network, such as a prior contest to meet Lionel Messi, the footballer.

A separate effort giving users the chance to secure tickets for all of India's matches in the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup was also named among the 19 best marketing campaigns globally by Facebook.

"The primary focus remains on organic content as we believe it results in better consumer connect," Homi Battiwalla, PepsiCo's director, colas, hydration and mango based beverages, told the Times of India.

Vodafone, the telecoms giant, has also been cautious about advertising on Facebook. Instead, it drives buzz in more interactive ways, Anuradha Aggarwal, the firm's SVP, brand communication and insights, said.

"Since having high engagement scores is our goal, we focus on creating content on our Facebook page rather than on advertising," she said. "We focus on creating posts and apps to enable our 3.2m fans to create conversations and experiences around the brand."

Mahindra & Mahindra, the automaker, has adopted a similar model on the social network, Vivek Nayer, senior VP, marketing, for its car division, said.

"Rather than looking at Facebook for advertising reach, we've leveraged it for what the platform is inherently good at; building communities," he said. "Today at 5m, we are the largest automotive community on Facebook in India."

Hindustan Unilever, the FMCG manufacturer, saw 120,000 Facebook users "like" the brand page for its new Cornetto Fruttare, and hold 150,000 conversations, in just ten days. The firm is hoping for improved analytics options going forward.

"The analytics are available at a lag of seven to 15 days; I'm sure it can come earlier. I'm sure there will be a time when we can talk to people from a specific city or market," said Sapan Sharma, general manager, ice creams.

Venkat Mallik, president of Tribal DDB and Rapp India, the agencies, suggested marketers may require more convincing before fully embracing the opportunities Facebook provides.

"There need to be more strong case studies demonstrating the sales or brand impact from the use of Facebook led engagement," he said.

Data sourced from Times of India; additional content by Warc staff