SAN FRANCISCO: Brands like KFC, the fast-food restaurant chain, and Whole Foods, the organic grocery company, are benefitting from their use of Twitter, the microblogging service, but the recent experience of Habitat, the UK furniture retailer, has shown there are also some risks involved.

While many advertisers are aiming to increase their presence on social media platforms, a model of how to successfully achieve this has yet to emerge, although Dell reported in June that it has generated $3 million (€2.1m; £1.8m) in sales using Twitter.

Earlier this year, KFC added grilled chicken to its menu for the first time, a move it promoted with a wide-ranging media strategy.

This included product placement in shows like Gary Unmarried, and a tie-up with Oprah Winfrey, who offered a voucher for a free meal at the company's restaurants on her website.

Twitter also contributed to what David Novak, ceo of Yum Brands, the owner of KFC, called "the best product launch in our history" once a link to this coupon was added to the social messaging utility.

According to the company, the "Kentucky Grilled Chicken launch made a particularly big splash in the Twitterverse. During the online discussion of our free meal, KFC became the top trending topic on Twitter, which is an amazing accomplishment for a brand."

Because of the resulting level of interest, the web page hosting the voucher crashed, and KFC outlets struggled to meet demand, resulting in a large amount of "buzz" surrounding the campaign.

Whole Foods also currently boasts over 1 million "followers" on Twitter, having established an official account on the website around a year ago.

Its strategy on the portal has been to mix a limited number of commercial communications with responding to questions posted by consumers within a 24-hour time limit.

Winnie Hsia, its social media specialist, said that "at times we've encouraged folks to follow us with contests and promotions exclusive to Twitter."

However, the main focus has been on providing "customer service, and valuable and relevant content that keeps folks following us," she added.

Typically, Hsia continued, "we find that only responding to folks who seek us out or formally mention us is less invasive than listening to and responding to all instances of our name being mentioned."

At the beginning of this month, Iain McDonald, founder of Amnesia Razorfish, the creative agency, issued a "tweet" encouraging Coca-Cola and Pepsi to "end an old war" and "follow each other on Twitter and be friends."

Coca-Cola responded with a "gracious (but competitive) hello" to its rival, prompting Pepsi to issue a reply saying "Can rivals and tweeps coexist? We're willing to find out."

By contrast, Habitat was recently found to have made "tweets" containing tags linked to the Iranian elections – a hot topic on Twitter at the time – to boost interest in its stream on the site.

As a result, the comp

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff