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The consumer is in control when it comes to today's social web. Brands are dealing with this in numerous ways and many are embracing their lack of control.

But one company has perhaps the best story: Coca-Cola.

AdAge.com details the incredible story of the soft drink maker's wildly popular Facebook page.

Why is the story incredible? Many brands have Facebook pages and many are engaging consumers on social media websites.

The difference: Coca-Cola's page on Facebook, which currently has 3.3 million 'fans', wasn't started by Coke. It was started by Los Angeles residents Dusty Sorg and Michael Jedrzejewski.

As a Coca-Cola drinker, Sorg wanted to 'fan' the iconic soft drink on Facebook but couldn't find a legitimate-looking page. So he created one himself using an image of a Coke can that he downloaded. Nobody knows why his page became so popular, but it did.

Last November, when Facebook implemented a new policy that required pages promoting a brand to be operated by someone authorized by the brand, Facebook gave Coke an option: we can close the page or hand it over to you.

Coke could have easily taken the page and kicked the creators to the curb but it went back to Facebook with an option of its own: let the creators run it with help from a few members of Coca-Cola's interactive team. They called Sorg and Jedrzejewski.

AdAge.com's Abbey Klaassen reports:

Now normally when a giant multinational company calls a consumer about something the consumer has created in that company's brand name or image, it's not a good sign. And initially Mr. Jedrzejewski said he was worried about it.

"Everyone has this vision that if something like this happens, the big company will send you off to Guantanamo," he said. "This was exactly the opposite."

'Opposite' is an understatement. Coke actually flew Sorg and Jedrzejewski to Atlanta, showed them around and talked business.

As Klaassen notes, Coke wasn't always naturally at ease with the idea that consumers are increasingly in control. She cites the viral Diet Coke-Mentos video that wasn't initially to the company's liking as an example.

But clearly Coke is learning quick and a situation that could easily have been turned into a PR nightmare involving Facebook's second largest page (after Barack Obama's) has been turned into a shining example of why giving consumers control can be a good thing. For Coke and forward-thinking brands like it, social media is giving new meaning to the old Coca-Cola slogan, "You Can't Beat the Feeling".

Patricio Robles

Published 16 March, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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