Starbucks is a brand many have admired for years, both in traditional advertising and online. As one of the early adopters of social media, Starbucks continues to push the envelope on cultivating and managing relationships in social settings. The coffee giant has always been able to translate its offline brand strategies online. In a sense, its created a network of “online baristas” to serve customers online instead of necessarily in one of its locations.
Starbucks mission is ” to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” The personal and “local” feel of a company that is so large translates well on social media. People look at their local Starbucks franchise as a local coffee shop, and that’s mainly due to the brand’s voice in advertising, as well as, on social media. Beyond its mission, Starbucks boosts several values: honesty, sincerity, and connecting with customers on a human level. All of these values obviously translate well in a social online setting where people are looking to not only trust brands, but also connect with them.
With over 36 million “likes” on its Facebook page, Starbucks has cultivated a strong online community. It actually doesn’t take the “traditional” business social media strategy of posting several times a day, rather lets fans drive the page’s content. That being said, when the brand does create content, it is very casual and similar to what their fans post, i.e. images of drinks, inspirational quotes, charitable causes, etc.
As you can imagine in the beverage and food industry, the brand gets its fair share of comments, questions, and feedback on a daily basis. While it may not be posting its own content everyday, all day, it does respond to fans in a timely fashion. All of the posts I’ve seen have received responses within 24 hours. A reputation that probably sits well with fans and critics alike. Below are a few screenshots of how they’ve responded to both positive and negative feedback on Facebook. You’ll see their casual, yet personal responses to each fan.
Starbucks acknowledges each comment/post, even if it’s just someone wanting to thank their husband for a coffee drink. The brand is clearly listening on social media and interacting with fans who just mention the brand. It’s a clear commitment to the social world we live in. When it comes to complaints and negative feedback, the brand directs everyone to its customer service email. It’s great that Starbucks has something like this set up (since the amount of issues they receive is enormous), but I will say it does get repetitive that they have almost the same canned response for each comment (also see Twitter screenshots below). I would suggest they create a variety of responses, that all lead back to the customer service email, but don’t all sound the same.
The one thing that really stood out to me with their brand voice, was the company’s ability to harness and encourage ideas from fans. Starbucks often directs people to its My Starbucks Ideas website to submit ideas for improving products, sharing customer experiences, and cultivating community involvement.
On Twitter, Starbucks maintains its brand voice when responding to followers. Its voice is fun and casual, while still being attentive and responsive. It’s clear the brand cares about it’s fans/customers and wants to react in a positive way to all interactions. Below are a few conversations between the brand and its Twitter followers.
Any brand can learn about social media engagement from Starbucks. It’s not just pushing out promotional messaging or ignoring questions, compliments, and complaints. It’s addressing them all, while keeping that “human spirit” of the brand. A consistent brand voice is so important for social media, and cultivating that voice to be one your fans/followers can relate to is even more important.
I look forward to seeing what the “online baristas” serve up on social media in the future!