ATLANTA: A page dedicated to Coca-Cola that was created by two brand enthusiasts on Facebook now has over three million "fans", making it the second most popular profile on the social networking site, behind only that for Barack Obama, the US president.

A recent article discussing how to successfully communicate with consumers on social media sites argued it was crucial to "understand how customers discuss your brand in social networking spaces, and what you bring to the conversation."

The Facebook profile page for Coca-Cola was set up by Dusty Sorg and Michael Jedrzejewski last year, and had 1.2 million "fans" by December, a total that had grown to 3.3 million by this month.

Sorg said he set up the page because he was "already on Facebook a lot and I didn't see any Coke pages that seemed very official."

Based on its terms and conditions, Facebook told Sorg and Jedrzejewski that Coca-Cola would have to control the profile, as pages linked to brands must be administered by the owner of a trademark.

However, Coca-Cola agreed to establish a "joint administration agreement" with the creators of the new page, in order to maintain the user-generated nature of it presence on the website.

Michael Donnelly, Coca-Cola's group director of worldwide interactive marketing, argued it represented "a great way for us to expose a huge number of people to what we're doing at no cost."

While there are around 200 profiles linked to Coca-Cola on the social networking site, Donnelly said the success of this particular example may simply have been down to its use of a "great image."

Kristen Smith, executive director of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, also suggests the venture is an "excellent example of a partnership between the brand and the consumer."

Coca-Cola has also bought a £30 million ($44m; €33m) stake, in Innocent Drinks, the UK-based smoothie manufacturer, giving it a stake of between 10% and 20% in the company.

Data sourced from Financial Times/The Times; additional content by WARC staff