NEW YORK: A growing number of US retailers are looking to use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to connect with their customers on the web, and many are moving beyond simple branding techniques in order to achieve this goal.

Best Buy, the consumer electronics giant, has established a number of feeds on Twitter, the microblogging portal, one of which acts as a channel for "tweeting for and about Best Buy as we see it."

This account has over 9,000 followers, and gives details about discounts and offers, and access to a "Twelpforce", or a team of customer service representatives who are available to answer questions and give assistance to people who have recently bought products.

Alongside organising a number of "tweet-ups", where users of the messaging service congregate to discuss specific topics, it has run a “fantasy football” competition, set up a page for its Outlet Center, and launched a range of other profiles to serve specific communities on Twitter.

Starbucks is regarded as a pioneering brand in the social networking space, and, as previously reported, runs its own community alongside operating on a number of other Web 2.0 properties.

With regard to Twitter, the coffee house chain has a variety of country-specific feeds, including one in Spanish, and it is also the most popular brand on Facebook at present.

Taco Bell, the restaurant chain, has 2,800 fans on Twitter, where it takes a direct approach to promoting its products, "tweets" about news and competitions, and provides other items such as a download for its GPS Store Locater.

A separate stream informs visitors of the whereabouts of the TacoBellTruck, which tours the US giving out free samples of goods from its menu.

Similarly, its TaceBell4Teens account is focused on informing young people about "programs that inspire teens to graduate from high school and become caring, educated, pro-active adults."

Sears, the department store chain, similarly has its own profile page of Facebook with more than 25,000 "fans", and gives members of the social network a $10 (€7; £6) voucher if they choose to adopt such a status.

Alongside links to its web and mobile portals, Sears' brand profile shows its most recent advertising executions, and enables consumers to take part in its Heroes at Home charitable campaign.

Aéropostale, the apparel chain, has over 250,000 Facebook connections, and offers downloadable items like "wallpapers", although it does not allow people to post feedback on its Facebook "Wall".

Netflix, the DVD rental firm, has almost 50,000 fans, and uses Facebook Connect so that comments made by members on a bespoke area of are shared with their friends on the social network.

Charlotte Russe, the female fashion specialist, has also produced a "widget" which means web users can peruse its catalogue on Facebook, identify and save products they like, and discuss them with their contacts on the portal.

Taking this approach a step further, has built a "Shop" tab on its Facebook profile which means people can buy "gifts without ever having to stray from your Facebook account."

Data sourced from Retailer Daily; additional content by WARC staff