Social Media Secrets of Big Brands: Starbucks

starbucks-logoToday is the final day in our Social Media Secrets of Big Brands series. Earlier we looked at what YouTube and Coca-Cola are doing for social media success. Today, we will look at Starbucks. With over 19 million likes, Starbucks is the third most popular brand on Facebook.

The Welcome Page

Like Coca-Cola, when you first arrive on the Starbucks fan page you see a welcome page. However, unlike Coca-Cola, Starbucks is not asking fans for likes, but making fans aware of a unique function of their page—the ability to manage your Starbucks card. In order to use the function, fans must give Starbucks access to their basic information (and that of their friends) and allow Starbucks to post on their wall (including status messages, notes, photos and videos). For those who are not concerned about their privacy—and let’s face it, do we even know what privacy is anymore?—this might be okay, but we suspect that the terms of use would deter some people from using the otherwise convenient Facebook function.

The Wall

When you make it to Starbucks’ Wall, the whole first page of updates is filled with messages posted from fans. Messages range from people sharing their favorite beverages and recommending specials/drinks/services/locations to complaints of poor customer service. There is a lot of love…and a lot of frustration voiced in these comments.

According to Alexandra Wheeler, Digital Director of Starbucks, social media is “about relationships, not marketing.” She talks about the importance of authentically engaging consumers across a variety of social media platforms and communicating across the multi-dimensional aspects of any relationship.

As we perused through hundreds of wall posts over the course of a week, we thought we’d see how Starbucks engages its fans. However, Starbucks only had one status update posted to their wall and a smattering of responses to complaints.

When Starbucks does respond to a complaint, their responses are very formal (and often utilize the same or similar language in response to a variety of complaints), such as:

Hi Jane! I am contacting you from the Starbucks Customer Relations team. I would really like to hear more about your experience. Please look out for a Facebook message from Starbucks Customer Relations.
Starbucks Customer Relations

And their lone status update is about the launch of their Starbucks Card eGift.

We were a little disappointed. Maybe Starbucks was just having an off week, but we didn’t see much authentic engagement with fans going on.

Though genuine interaction was lacking, Starbucks’ Facebook page is still successful, largely due to the fact that it is such a well-known and well-loved brand (we’re definitely fans:) ). Despite Starbucks’ silence on Facebook, their page has kind of taken on a life of its own.

Lessons for Small Businesses

Starbucks is definitely a leader in the social media space. And their success is largely attributed to their understanding of meeting consumers where they are; that means forming and maintaining a presence across a variety of social media platforms and allowing fans to shape the experience they want from the brand’s social media presence.

Small businesses can do the same. Take the time to engage with consumers. Allow consumers to shape the experience. Let consumers know you care about their experience…and lives.

Remember, social media is about forming relationships that are stronger than any marketing campaign could ever produce.

So, tell us: what are your thoughts on integrating social media into your overall marketing strategy?