Case Study Fun: How Starbucks Rocks Social Engagement


Starbucks gets a bad rap for having expensive, snobby-sounding coffee beverages, but those who have followed the brand since its inception know that Starbucks actually has very hippy, people-friendly values. Their employees receive full benefits even at part time (a bigger deal for US employees, obviously) and their fairly-traded coffee program beats the social benefits of the official Certified Fair Trade label hands-down. (Starbucks works on a merits system with supplying farmers; in exchange for their compliance with social and environmental standards, the company does amazing things like building women’s clinics in these under-developed villages.)

credit: Hubspot

credit: Hubspot

But how has Starbucks embraced the social media world of community engagement? Pretty effectively, actually. My Starbucks Idea, for example, has been running since well before Twitter was on everyone’s phone. The site is a place for “Sbux” consumers to share ideas about new products, better packaging, or other concerns. It is from this site that the mysterious ‘siren stick’ was born: the green plastic mermaid-topped stir stick available at the coffee bar, meant to plug up your coffee’s top while you’re walking or driving.

The genius of this site is multi-faceted:

-It gets customers engaging with the brand on a regular basis,

-It gets customers returning again and again to their site to see if their idea is popular,

-It gets customers engaging with each other,

-It was likely one of the first unofficial ‘crowdsourcing’ sites out there,

-It has resulted in hundreds of legitimately good ideas, and Starbucks has actually implemented tons of them.

Customers feel heard, Starbucks gets ‘free’ focus groups, and there’s ongoing engagement.

How are you engaging your audience? They're online and waiting for a chance to interact!

How are you engaging your audience? They're online and waiting for a chance to interact!

Sources say that Starbucks’ twitter feed is an engaging and worthwhile channel, as well.

A key component to being effective in the social media game is to make your brand synonymous with user-friendly tech. In this way, Starbucks has provided free iTunes songs for many years now. Visit any Starbucks and you can pick up a little card to take home a new song. What a great way for a place to say, “Come in, enjoy your tunes, and take a little taste of the Starbucks atmosphere home with you!” Bridging the gap between your store and your consumer’s home is one of the great powers of online media; this was a genius way for them to meld home and café into one.