Brands are now not only battling it out on store shelves but also in social media. In the first of a series, Digiday is examining the social strategies of two leading brand competitors: Coke and Pepsi.

We examined the presence of each brand’s main Facebook, Twitter and YouTube account. Our analysis goes beyond raw numbers — anyone can buy a bunch of Facebook fans — to look at how well the brands employ those qualities inherent in the social universe: engagement and authenticity. We take a broad view of how these two companies are represented in the social sphere, looking at everything from how the brands set up their Facebook pages to the frequency and types of tweets the people manning the accounts deliver.

The Numbers: Coke has a large following on these three platforms. As of this writing, the world’s No. 1 brand has 493,476 Twitter followers, 39.7 million likes on Facebook and 58,653 YouTube subscribers. The brand tweets at a prodigious rate, having amassed 49,535 tweets. Facebook fans, 552,473 of them, are talking about the brand. And on YouTube, the company has uploaded 783 videos garnering 59,510,443 views.

Behind the Numbers: Coke’s Facebook page is legendary because it’s the most popular of any brand. The company uses it to promote its community- and family-oriented message. A lovely graphic of a family of polar bears and a link to the company’s work with the Wild Life Foundation to provide a safe haven for polar bears are the first thing you see. There’s the story of the Coke Facebook page, which was actually begun by fans until the brand brokered a deal to take it over. Unfortunately, there’s little engagement from Coke with its fans in the here and now. The page is pretty much a means of broadcasting Coke content.

Over on Twitter, Coke’s much more hands on with its followers. It manages the impressive feat of responding to dozens of messages a day. Coke’s clearly staffed for Twitter: I counted eight different reps responding for the brand. (Responses come with the initials of the person writing on behalf of the brand, which is a nice humanizing touch.) If there’s a quibble, it’s a lack of sharing. This feels like a customer-service outlet at times. There are no links sent and little in the way of personality. Indeed, the link the company gives is to its corporate website, not its popular Facebook page for instance. That’s a miss.

YouTube is a slam dunk for Coke, which boasts a ton of video content that’s made for sharing. Landing on Coke’s YouTube page, visitors can watch a minute-long interactive video, which when users click on a Coke bottle, takes them to a different site that corresponds with the image just viewed. For example, when the ad shows you the inventor of the soft drink, you can click on the in-ad bottle, and it takes you to Doc Pemberton’s Twitter feed. There are five of these nuggets inside the video leading the viewer to different company sites, like its Facebook page and its site. Checking out the videos the company posts, we see all sorts of branded videos and some ads. The company knows how to use video to its advantage and YouTube is a perfect house for the company’s foray into sharable video. It’s nice to see Coke using YouTube to knit together its social outlets. Clearly, a winner.

The numbers: Pepsi numbers on these platforms are nothing to sneeze at, although they clearly pale in comparison to Coke’s. The beverage company has 634,770 Twitter followers, 7,595,985 likes on Facebook and 17,354 YouTube subscribers. The brand isn’t as prolific in its tweeting, as it has tweeted only 7,601 times. There were only 109,672 people talking about Pepsi on Facebook when we hit its page. On YouTube, Pepsi has put up 231 videos attracting 25,583,231 views.

Behind the numbers: Unlike Coke, where you have to navigate through Facebook to get to the brand’s wall, Pepsi takes you right there where you can see its posts. The brand posts everything from Pepsi images of cans dressed up for Mardi Gras to a short post showing that it gets social: keep calm and sip on (playing off the Keep Calm and Carry On meme). It, too, appears to post about once a day. The posts are light and energetic, pretty much on Pepsi’s youth brand appeal.

Pepsi, like Coke, is putting resources against Twitter as a response mechanism but going far beyond that. The four people who run the account understand that they need to share: whether it’s a link to a Pepsi brand site or a random video of a baby playing ping pong, the people tweeting on behalf of the company understand responding is not just enough to build authenticity. Pepsi nails this. It uses youthspeak like “woot” and words with repetitive consonants (like thissss) throughout the tweets. The olds might not get it, but the young people are totally into that nowadays.

Pepsi’s strong standing on Facebook and Twitter unfortunately doesn’t carry over to YouTube. It mostly uses its channel to house its TV spots. That’s OK, but when looking at the broader Pepsi social picture, it doesn’t quite fit. The Pepsi channel currently houses eight commercials for Pepsi, Pepsi Max and Diet Pepsi. It seems as if the company’s YouTube use is an afterthought, which is odd considering how much effort (and budget) the brand puts into TV spots and other video assets.

Conclusion: Both Coke and Pepsi are clearly social media leaders. Each brand works hard to reflect its broader messaging into social. Coke’s values of family and community are well represented. Pepsi’s energy and whimsy shines through. But evidenced through its Facebook and Twitter accounts, Pepsi clearly hold the advantage. Coke may have the numbers, but Pepsi seems to better understand that engagement and authenticity are what denizens of the social sphere crave.

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