Sunday, February 14, 2010

How Do You Like Your Coffee?

For Starbucks Coffee, that question has morphed into a successful social media strategy, including the new My Starbucks Idea site, which allows everyday folks to tell the corporate coffee giant just what they want to see -- or not, as the case may be.

You know better than anyone else what you want from Starbucks. So tell us. What's your Starbucks Idea? Revolutionary or simple -- we want to hear it. Share your ideas, tell us what you think of other people's ideas and join the discussion. We're here, and we're ready to make idea happen. Let's get started.

Mashable lists Starbucks as #3 in its article "Presenting: 10 of the Smartest Big Brands in Social Media," praising the innovative strategy of asking customers what they want, and then delivering results. Launched at a time when the company was experiencing severe declines in its stock value, the site features a simple, user-friendly set up with three main sections: Got an Idea?, View Ideas, and Ideas in Action. All you need to participate is a user name, password and email address.

The Ideas in Action section is a blog where Starbucks corporate employees post about new things happening in the Starbucks world: new chocolates for Valentine's Day, specially printed red cups to support RED, low calorie snacks and information about the Youth Action Grant, a charitable program. Though the tagline for the blog is See What We're Doing With Your Ideas, it's not clear which, if any, of these brand promoting blog entries actually originated from customers' suggestions. However, a nice aspect of the blog is that it's open to comments, continuing the dialog with customers. And there is a section on the home page highlighting ideas that have been implemented, with links to the original ideas.

Starbucks and Twitter

Twitter presents a unique opportunity for companies like Starbucks who have developed a loyal, possibly addicted, following: over 777,000 and counting as of today. The company actively participates in an ongoing conversation with customers, using Twitter as a forum to address customer complaints, say thanks and promote brand awareness.

@CJonesPhotog We'll give you a free drink for your birthday! Register your Starbucks card:
1:17 PM Feb 10th from web by bradnelson in reply to CJonesPhotog

Tweets from customers are sometimes funny, often whimsical and sometimes complaining about an experience at a Starbucks location. The company replies to many and appears to address complaints in a timely and respectful manner.

Coffee on YouTube

Like many corporations, Starbucks has a YouTube channel, where they upload commercials, videos about their charitable work, information about coffee and a video history of the company.

Last year, Starbucks went on a cross-country tour to introduce its new instant coffee, Via Ready Brew. They handed out samples at selected locations and then posted videos of the experience on YouTube:

With more than 5,000 subscribers, Starbucks has a significant YouTube presence, just another piece of its carefully mapped out social media strategy.

Become a Fan

Covering all the bases, Starbucks has a Facebook fan page, and currently boasts more than 5 million fans. Many of these fans write things on the wall such as, "I love coffee," which is a little baffling to me, but each to his own I suppose. The fan page is interesting enough, with an Around the World section (which knew where I was) along with the photo and video sections, where fans can post their own photos or videos, and a lengthy discussion section where anyone can start or post to a discussion.

The Facebook page also lists events, promoting free coffee giveaways and other events such as charitable sponsorship events.

Does Social Media Power Translate Into Purchasing Power?

With a presence almost everywhere, including Flickr, Pandora and those listed above, one has to wonder -- does it pay off? Does a strong social media presence translate into paying customers? It does, according to a study by social media platform WetPaint and digital consulting group The Altimeter. Researchers found that companies who engaged actively and deeply in social media saw their revenues increase by an average of 18%, while those who were the least engaged saw a drop of 6%.

The research considered "not only their breadth of engagement across these channels, but also their depth, such as whether they reply to comments made on blog posts. Each brand was given a numerical score." Starbucks topped the list, with a score of 127.

So, it seems that Starbucks is on to something. Engage with customers, participate in dialog, keep it light, interesting and easy and you just might see your advertising budget drop while your revenues go up. Coffee anyone?


  1. "Does a strong social media presence translate into paying customers?" This is the question that was on my mind as I read your post, so thanks for answering it! You might be interested in this social media ROI video: Social Media ROI: Socialnomics". (Might want to turn off your sound.)

  2. I was wondering the same thing myself, and both the blog post and the video answered that question. Back when all of the face-to-face social marketing networks were beginning to make the rounds in the eighties (Amway, Mary Kay, Avon, etc.), my wife used to make the somewhat sardonic comment that sooner or later, someone had to step up and buy a bar of soap. Otherwise, it was all just talk.

    One of the causes of the bubble bursting in the late nineties and some of the subsequent disappointing performances by online entities has been the glaring fact that no one has quite gotten a handle on how to monetize the internet's potential. Maybe the marketing potential locked in social media will be the goose that lays the golden egg.

  3. By the way, I like my coffee with cream, two sugars, and a Marlboro 100.

    But for about ten years now, I've been taking it black. Sigh...

  4. The more I investigate the Starbucks' links you provided, the more I'm amazed at the company. They do some really neat things. I think the community that they foster both in their stores and online is great. Some folks are serious about their java and they connect with Starbucks on an almost obsessive level. Now they have a reason to be proud of their passions! They really do know how to use social media, on multiple platforms, that goes beyond simple marketing and gets customers engaged and excited.

    I don't drink coffee, but I do like the hazelnut hot chocolate. I'm financially challenged - so I tend to duck out when social media comes marketing my way. But I do like that I can rely on Starbucks. I only get hot chocolate in the winter, but I always depend on it when I'm traveling. No matter how strange of a city I'm in, I can always find a Starbucks (and a Ted's Montana Grill) and feel right at home before heading back out into the winter streets.