Starbucks Brews Strong Relationships on Social Media

StarbucksSignStarbucks 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_PositiveCommentStarbucks_NegativeComment

 

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.

Starbucks_IdeaComment

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.

Starbucks_AppProblemComment Starbucks_NegativeComment2 Starbucks_PositiveComment2

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!

 

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8 thoughts on “Starbucks Brews Strong Relationships on Social Media

  1. Hi! I love that you wrote about Starbucks, I debated writing about them too! I worked at Starbucks for two years while I was in undergrad and I can tell you, Starbucks definetely cares about their customers! I am so happy to see that this translates onto their social accounts. When you walk into a Starbucks they want you to feel welcomed and at home. During my time there greeting the customer within 5 seconds of walking through the door and writing customer names on cups were easy ways to make the experience more personal. I love seeing the posts you provided. You can tell that they want each customer experience to be just as personal and amazing!

    • Thanks for the comment, Alexis. It’s great to get perspective from someone who’s worked for the brand. I didn’t even think about the names on the cups! You’re right they do care, and it’s great they are able to translate that feeling in an online setting.

    • I don’t love it! I’m sure they are doing that just so they can fit the email address and shortened link. It’s almost like they should just use the shortened link and remove the email address. Abbreviated some things on Twitter is expected I think, but coming from a brand I think it should be used minimally. The response about the frappachino is a little much for me, but good brand voice overall.

  2. Hi Laura,
    While I love your post, I think Starbucks could do more than just post about Starbucks. There are so many different things that they can post about regarding their music choices or educate people on the various countries the coffee comes from. I worked at Starbucks for 5 years and since I worked there for so long, I do feel passionate about some things that I think they could do better. I think educating the customers would go a long way to create even more brand advocates. I am also not really impressed with the text speak either. I think it is great that they respond, but the answers do seem a little canned. Great company though, and a great post!

    • Thanks Amanda. You make a good point about broadening their content. Starbucks mainly relies on their audience to post content. Then, it seems, it fills in the blanks with some content about its drinks/products. One thing I do like is their posts resemble many of the posts their audience creates. It’s almost like Starbucks is looking to its fans to create its brand voice, and then it is following stride. Overall, there is a lot more they could be doing, but since what they are doing seems to be working, why change it?!?!

  3. Hey Laura,
    I’m glad some customers are getting responses from Starbucks on social media, however, I am not one of them. There have been times when I have casually mentioned Starbucks on social, and times when I have come to them with an issue, and I never get a response. I usually have to resort to emailing customer care when I contact Starbucks, which I don’t mind, but not getting a social response at all kind of leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth. It’s especially upsetting because I feel like I have been somewhat of a brand evangelist at times for Starbucks, talking them up to my friends and family. Lack of social media response from them, along with what I perceive to be a lack of new drink innovation on their part, has led to the cooling of my feelings for Starbucks in recent months. However, I’m still hopeful for the company, as they’ve risen from the ashes before … and I was very impressed with the new Oprah Chai Tea!

    • Amanda,
      That is disappointing when you don’t get a response from a company you’ve mentioned on social media (heck, I didn’t get one from them on this post!), but it’s more concerning when you’ve had an issue and that issue goes unanswered. If a company is on social media they should be responding to questions/concerns/complaints, especially a company as Starbucks, which seems pretty social media savvy. Customers shouldn’t have to do the leg work to submit a complaint or question, it should be as easy as tweeting or posting, and then receiving an answer. If companies, such as KLM can do it, so can Starbucks. As you said, I too am hopeful Starbucks will continue to grow and develop its social media presence.

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