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Starbucks is often touted as having an excellent social strategy, so it’s an excellent subject for our series of posts looking at how brands use the four main social networks.
Having previously evaluated a number of brands including Red Bull, ASOS, Walmart and Ikea, it appeared that the brands that were doing well in social all followed the same basic blueprint – they post updates several times a day and are excellent at responding to consumers.
But as this post shows, Starbucks has managed to outperform nearly all other consumer brands in terms of community engagement despite taking the exact opposite approach.
And there is a special mention for Starbucks’ Instagram feed at the end as well...
Aside from Facebook itself which has almost 90m fans, Starbucks is one of the most ‘liked’ consumer brands on Facebook with a massive 33m fans.
This in the same ballpark as Walmart, which has 27m, however the two companies operate vastly different social strategies.
Walmart updates its page several times a day with posts including product suggestions, caption competitions and sports chat. Posting frequent updates is generally seen as the best way to maintain an engaged fan base, however Starbucks often goes weeks without posting anything.
Yet its post, which are often just attractive product images, gain thousands of ‘likes’ and hundreds of comments.
For example, a picture of the original Starbucks coffee shop with the heading ‘Where it all started’, attracted more than 150,000 ‘likes’ and 2,100 comments.
Starbucks’ social team also doesn’t seem to respond to many of these comments, if at all.
If anything Starbucks’ massive fan count and high engagement rate serves to underline the fact that there are few hard and fast rules when it comes to social media.
The other brands I’ve looked that have achieved success on Facebook, such as John Lewis and ASOS, flood their pages with numerous updates per day and do a decent job of responding to comments.
Starbucks does the exact opposite but outperforms both of these brands.
The coffee brand also has local pages for other global markets including the UK, which adopts a similar strategy towards the frequency of posts.
However the content is more varied, with videos, surveys and coupons in among the product images.
Starbucks UK is also the only brand I’ve seen so far that includes several user posts in its timeline. There are four posts from fans on February 8, two of which are ringing endorsements for the brand, while one of the others is a request for job advice from someone in Thailand.
I’m not sure why these posts are showing up on the Starbucks UK page, and really they make it look a bit untidy.
Starbucks’ takes an equally relaxed attitude towards its main Twitter feed, tweeting fewer than 10 times a day on average.
Most of its posts are responses to @mentions, but it also tweets product images and links to its loyalty scheme every couple of days.
The content is generally uninspiring and often repurposed from Facebook, yet the feed has more than 3.5m followers.
While other brands give their social teams the freedom to engage in conversations with followers and inject some personality into their Twitter feeds, Starbucks’ content is really quite bland. Obviously this means it avoids getting caught up in anything controversial, but it also seems fairly unambitious.
The Starbucks UK feed is also relatively quiet compared to the likes of ASOS, tweeting no more than 10 times each day.
A decent proportion of the tweets are responses to customer service queries, but it appears that social is a low priority for the brand.
In fact the most notable thing about Starbucks’ Twitter feed is the momentous fail it suffered during a Christmas promotional campaign at the Natural History Museum.
The coffee brand displayed Twitter messages that used the hashtag #spreadthecheer on a big screen next to an ice rink at the museum, but forgot to actually monitor what was being posted.
Coming hot on the heels of the scandal over Starbucks’ UK taxes, the wall unsurprisingly became a prime target for angry taxpayers...
While its Facebook and Twitter pages are deeply uninspiring, Starbucks has one of the best Pinterest accounts I’ve seen so far.
It only has seven boards but they have more than 900 pins between them, and have attracted more than 76,000 followers. In comparison, Walmart has created 65 boards but has just 12,000 followers, while ASOS's 13 boards have around 25,000.
The boards are full of fantastic images that are almost entirely sourced from third-party sites. I think this is an important part creating a successful Pinterest strategy, and is something that a number of brands don’t seem to grasp.
I recently highlighted several brands that have run Pinterest competitions to drive up follower numbers and engagement, and Starbucks is another brand to add to this list.
In September 2012 it offered followers the chance to win a Verismo System coffee machine if they created a board named ‘It’s possible’ then pinned six images to it, including one of the new machine.
A quick Pinterest search for ‘It’s possible’ shows that it had hundreds, if not thousands of entries. Great success!
Normally when brands neglect their Google+ pages I say that it’s a symptom of the fact that nobody uses the network, but in this case it’s actually in keeping with Starbucks’ overall social strategy.
The coffee brand has more than a million followers and posts content every few days with nearly all of it taken from its Facebook page and Twitter feed, though there’s nothing drastically wrong with this tactic.
Each update attracts hundreds of +1s and up to 100 comments, which is actually a lot better than most of the other brands I’ve looked at.
Ikea, Tesco and Walmart haven't really bothered to update their G+ pages at all, but ASOS and Red Bull post content frequently and as a result have 1.4m and 1.5m followers respectively.
Special mention for Instagram
As I’ve already mentioned, Starbucks stretches every piece of content as far as it can by reusing it across all its social channels, and its Instagram feed is no different.
It looks great and has more than a million followers, but all the content is remarkably familiar.
As with Red Bull, the idea is to promote the brand as part of a lifestyle choice and as something to be enjoyed with friends.
Starbucks also used Instagram to cross-promote a Google Hangout with Maroon 5, showing how the mobile app can be used as part of a multichannel marketing campaign.