NEW YORK: Marketers are increasingly using social media for long-term branding efforts rather than just as a tactical tool, a shift forming part of a wider maturation in digital strategies, a new paper from Warc argues.

What we know about digital, mobile and social media asserts that digital marketing is now mainstream - at the forefront of many brand's strategies - rather than playing a supporting role.

Marketers are "beginning to identify certain digital channels that can provide long-term strategic opportunities, such as social media (although it is often misused as an activation channel), websites and online games," says the Warc paper.

One company which has leveraged social media in a truly thoroughgoing way is Taco Bell, the quick-service restaurant chain.

"Previously seen as the 'jester' of the QSR category, it decided to connect with its target millennial audience by tapping into their evident passion for its brand," the paper says.

Through connecting with its most passionate fans, such as by offering them exclusive access to new products, the firm was able to connect with them in both a deep and sustainable fashion.

In the same sector, McDonald's has given its brand a more "human" face by providing behind-the-scenes footage, alongside showing it has a sense of humour.

Elsewhere, soft drinks-giant Coca-Cola has explicitly placed its emphasis on building brand "love", instead of solely looking at "Likes", on services like Facebook.

"Coca-Cola's global social media strategy focuses on creating consumer engagement, rather than transient 'likes'," Warc's paper suggests.

"The company has also gathered knowledge about how conversations develop on social media, and how to identify opportunities to get involved."

Nasty Gal, the fashion retailer, has demonstrated the profound implications that can result from putting social at the heart of brand strategy.

Having begun life online and built a large fan base on social media sites from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram – and some more niche platforms – the company is now opening bricks-and-mortar stores.

Data sourced from Warc