NEW YORK: Procter & Gamble, Burger King and Blendtec are among the brand owners which have produced the best social media marketing campaigns, according to a Forbes survey.

The business title asked David Berkowitz of digital agency 360i, Brandon Evans of social marketing shop Mr Youth and Michael Lebowitz of new media agency Big Spaceship to identify 20 stand-out initiatives.

Alongside assessing results, other factors like creativity and execution were also taken into account by the panel.

The Blair Witch Project, the horror film, led the rankings, having pioneered the model of building massive buzz through internet forums and message boards.

Among the techniques used by the filmmakers were circulating fake newspaper articles and police photos to drive online debate about the truth of the story.

The movie subsequently took receipts of $29m in its first week, and has generated revenues of $249m to date.

Blendtec's low-budget "Will it Blend?" series - which has seen ceo Tom Dickson try to destroy various items from golf balls to an iPad in its blenders - also impressed the panel.

Jeff Robe, the organisation's director of marketing, argued this scheme has pushed up awareness and been integral to a 700% improvement in domestic sales since November 2006.

The more recent "Smell Like a Man, Man" campaign by Wieden + Kennedy for P&G's Old Spice came in third place, and was applauded for its attempts to deliver a real-time response.

In a bid to stimulate electronic word of mouth, consumers were asked to submit questions to pitchman Isaiah Mustafa via sites like Twitter and Facebook, with over 180 reply videos shot in just a few days.

Burger King's subservient chicken, a platform allowing web users to command a man in a costume to obey orders such as to "moonwalk" or "make a sandwich", claimed fourth.

The campaign was developed by Crispin, Porter + Bogusky in 2004, and secured 15m hits in its first five days, the agency reported.

Closing out the top five was the Pepsi Refresh Project, a programme where individuals and groups enter proposals to regenerate local communities, with netizens then choosing the ideas that receive funding.

The judges believed the term "Refresh" tapped in to Pepsi's heritage as a youth-orientated brand, while simultaneously enabling it to appeal to a broader audience.

Other highly-regarded campaigns included Evian's "Roller Babies", which is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the online ad that has registered the most views ever.

Developed by EuroRSCG, this effort has been the subject of over 54,000 comments and tweets, demonstrating the power of properties like YouTube to encourage interest across the web.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola's Vitaminwater sought to make an impression by employing its Facebook fan page as its official website, alongside a co-creation drive, backed with traditional media support, to source an original flavour.

The risks of this strategy were shown by Nestle's Skittles, which gave its homepage over to content generated on Facebook, only to find people began to post inappropriate remarks, leading to a reversal of this decision.

Microsoft's search service Bing more effectively leveraged emerging trends by rewarding users clicking on sponsored links with virtual credits for Farmville, currently the number one social game on Facebook.

The "decision engine" signed up 425,000 fans in a single day in May as a result of this enterprise, an increase of 360%, and 75% of this group accessed Bing at some point in June.

Issa Sawabini, a partner at Fuse, a youth marketing agency, suggested engaging material that compels people to share information is essential to success.

"A company can't just create a viral video, put it on YouTube and hope that people will come," he argued. "You need to have something that is worth talking about."

Data sourced from Forbes; additional content by Warc staff