PALO ALTO: Major advertisers like Procter & Gamble and Unilever are heightening their use of Facebook, as they seek to connect with the social network's growing audience.

Facebook, which is by far the biggest player in its category, has more than 400 million members worldwide, a user base that is attracting the interest of a growing number of marketers.

At present, P&G's brands have a mixed record on this platform, with Pringles boasting 2.9 million "fans", while Olay has a few thousand, having only established a presence on its pages this month.

The FMCG titan has stated an intention to ensure the vast majority of its portfolio has developed some form of representation on the popular web property by the end of 2010.

It recently launched a high-profile campaign tied to its sponsorship of the Winter Olympics, with most of the 18 featured products linking their Facebook pages to a video of its TV spot on YouTube.

Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble's global brand building officer, said "what Facebook does is connect people into communities. It's also just a pretty good way to reach consumers through messages."

However, Pritchard added that other online outlets, like official websites, will continue to play a vital part in its overall strategy.

Some 1.5 million American netizens access each month, compared with 208,000 that have signed up as "fans" of Pampers on Facebook, showing why Procter is taking a mixed approach.

"You can use Facebook and websites in different ways. You can go deeper in content on your website in many cases," he said.

The Cincinnati-based firm has also opened an R&D facility in Palo Alto, where Facebook is based, a move said to represent an effort to encourage collaboration between the two organisations.

Forming this kind of alliance is becoming more important to the social media pioneer's attempts to drive revenue, after it decided to stop running banner ads earlier this year.

Its other initiatives have included allowing advertisers to adopt "vanity URLs" for their products, a tactic employed by Unilever for some of its goods.

Axe, the Anglo-Dutch group's deodorant range, is one example of this, with its main Facebook page set to play a more prominent role than dedicated online campaign hubs going forward.

Its activity on the site has included adding a range of video and other content thought to be of interest to young men.

However, with slightly more than 200,000 "fans", its Facebook profile has not matched visitor figures for microsites like

By contrast, Coca-Cola is one of the most successful brands on the social network, where it has 5 million fans, compared with 300,000 visitors to its official website from people in the US.

Data sourced from AdAge; additional content by Warc staff