Social media helps the company in other ways. Pepsi can be more surgical about reaching populations in specific geographic areas. "We're seeing good results from that," Smith says, explaining that the company can target local audiences with specially tailored advertising messages, culled from location information in Facebook profiles, rather than spread the same appeal to everyone.
Pepsi also benefits from an unfiltered conduit to consumers. "It's nice to be able to have that direct conversation with them, and not have to rely on a specific media channel to push this, or buy TV constantly to push that message," he says.
While Pepsi has made considerable strides, Solis cautions that all brands are in the early stage of learning how to interact through this dynamic medium. Companies "still have a lot of learning to do" over what they—and consumers—expect from social media, he says. "Somewhere in the middle is where the future of this is."