PARIS: Major French brand owners like Danone, La Poste and PagesJaunes are attempting to boost their social media capabilities by jointly funding detailed and rigorous research into this evolving medium.

The three companies are co-sponsoring a new Social Networks Research Chair at the Institut Telecom, a leading educational organisation, which will have a budget of €1m, to be spent over three years.

Among the core areas coming under scrutiny will be establishing metrics and models covering areas like online buzz and "e-reputation", as well as creating marketing strategies based on this kind of data.

Understanding the evolving ways in which people use platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and developing tools for managing communities and customer service, are also set to receive attention.

Members of Danone's brand teams will provide direct assistance to these efforts, something the company hopes will offer direct benefits.

"In a digital world undergoing profound changes, Danone is looking to this partnership to accelerate its knowledge of social networks," said Gwenaëlle Valmier, Danone Dairy's worldwide market research director.

"With the involvement of the French marketing teams of Danette, Activia, Blédina, Evian and Volvic, Danone hopes this work will rapidly be put to good use in our management of brand relations with consumers."

PagesJaunes, an advertising and information group, is also optimistic that such a process could have a positive influence on its revenues.

"The sharp increase in audiences in social networks gives the PagesJaunes Group a fantastic growth opportunity in terms of both our audiences and our sales to advertisers," said Pascal Thomas, the firm's audience marketing director.

Isabelle Cambreleng, director of digital publications and media for La Poste, the postal service, added that establishing what role consumers want brands to play in the digital space is vital.

She said: "Social media allows us to adapt our online behavior and become a responsible economic stakeholder. The work conducted by the Chair will help us better understand and integrate a constantly evolving movement."

Data sourced from Institut Telecom/Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff