It was about 3 ½ years ago when a Starbucks incident became a case study of inept online marketing. The coffee giant was forced to publicly renege on an email coupon for a free drink that was intended for family and friends of Starbucks employees in the Southeastern US, but unexpectedly went viral everywhere. So what was supposed to be a small local promotion, became a national embarrassment.
Now, 3 years after that incident, Starbucks is named by Altimeter Group as the world’s most engaged brand worldwide. How to explain this turnaround? Apparently, it’s not due to lessons learned from the runaway email experience, but more attributed to the strategy of replicating the coffeehouse experience onlne. Starbucks was able to elevate the entire experience away from just buying a cup of coffee, into being the corner bar—the gathering place for friends to meet. Moreover, they have used social media to leverage this positioning.
The Starbucks social media plan uses 4 primary digital touch points:
- Facebook—a page where fans can communicate internationally
- Twitter—serves mainly as a customer service channel
- You Tube—a channel where the company posts videos ranging from branded content to short pieces describing it’s charitable work
- MyStarbucksIdea.com—a digital suggestion box where customers can submit ideas for products and services
Even with its success on Twitter(more than 700,000 followers) and Facebook, the real heart of Starbuck’s social media platform is MyStarbucksIdea.com because this is where customers can actually influence others with what the company offers. Think about it—when you talk to most people about Starbucks, you generally hear: “I love Starbucks, but you know what they should do to make it even better?” MyStarbucksIdea.com launched about 2 years ago. Since then, more than 180,000 customers have registered, and more than 80,000 suggestions have been submitted. There is even a restricted portion of the site where employees can make suggestions.
Naturally, Starbucks doesn’t make any money directly from its social media efforts. You can’t charge people to follow you on Twitter or to watch your YouTube videos. But what it does do is deepen relationships with existing customers. And when you consider that the average age of a social media user is younger than most people purchasing coffee today, it means that Starbucks is generating “fans” through social media efforts who will one day translate into lifelong customers.
What’s your take on Starbucks? Visit us on Facebook, Twitter or our Blog and let us know how you think Starbucks is doing with social media.