Good news: You don't have to lose sight of your brand's tried-and-true persona to participate in the quest for deeper engagement at the new social sites. Just think of the social-media generation as a silver-dish serving of people who already want to talk to you; you just need to make them feel comfortable doing it. Easier said than done? Not necessarily. Here are a couple of older brands that are getting it right:

Sharpie, well past pushin' 40, managed to tap into an enthusiastic user culture in a way we're pretty sure no other pen brand has. Its Sharpie Uncapped gallery enables fans far and wide to express, in vivid (and permanent!) color, how they incorporate the inky wonders into their creative undertakings.

Think about the number of years kids have been using Sharpies to scribble on jeans, decorate casts and prettify their Converse tennies. Now there's a fun place to show all that off? Score!

Little Debbie, who first made the scene in the 1960s, is using flickr, Twitter, Facebook and blog outreach to promote a cupcake Share-a-Thon this fall. A series of Smart cars demonstrate Little Debbie's commitment to the eco-cause, and are also outfitted like the cupcakes themselves. Thus far, the aging mark has done a tasty job of reminding fresh generations of its relevance.

Now, not all instances of successful social-media outreach are even intentional. Case in point: When gay couples were finally permitted to wed in Vermont, 31-year-old ice cream brand Ben & Jerry's celebrated by renaming its Chubby Hubby ice cream Hubby Hubby within the state. Thousands of blog posts and twitter updates later, they realized they had a winner.

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