Starbucks has been hugely successful on social media, attracting tens of millions of fans and followers and becoming one of the most popular brands on Facebook.
In fact it was recently reported that nine out of ten Facebook users is either a fan of Starbucks or knows someone who is.
The coffee retailer has obviously been responsible for some excellent social campaigns over the past few years, so I’ve rounded up eight interesting examples.
For more information on this topic read my blog post looking at how Starbucks uses Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+, or check out our similar round ups focusing on McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.
To promote its new blonde roast back in 2011 Starbucks did a coffee giveaway that was promoted through its social channels.
One of the central features was a Facebook app that allowed people to learn about the new product, claim a free cup of blonde roast and send e-cards to their friends.
Starbucks also tweeted about the new brew and product giveaway, with some posts directing people back towards the Facebook app.
But it wasn’t all organic content. Starbucks also invested in Facebook ads and Twitter ads that were targeted at certain cities to make them more personalised.
This is a fairly simple but well coordinated social campaign that likely had a big impact on promoting awareness of the new coffee.
Starbucks in one of those brands that has the luxury of passionate, loyal customers, so that means it can generate huge excitement around the launch of new products.
In this case Starbucks was actually promoting the return of its pumpkin spice latte by giving people the chance to have the flavour available in their town a week before the rest of the US.
To win the prize fans had to rack up the most points on a specially created Facebook app. Users earned points for city shout-outs, solving a daily challenge or making a daily creation.
The city with the most passionate pumpkin spice latte fans on Facebook in the US and Canada, as determined by aggregated points, won the beverage in their town a week early.
In the end Chicago came out on top with 10.6m points, beating Seattle into second by some 342,000 points.
In October 2013 Starbucks launched a ‘Tweet-a-Coffee’ campaign that enabled people to give the gift of a $5 gift card just by putting both ‘@tweetacoffee’ and a friend’s handle in a tweet.
The coffee wasn’t free though and in order for it to work users had to link their Starbucks account to Twitter and their credit card to the account.
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) October 28, 2013
Analysis by research firm Keyhole found that by December more than 27,000 fans had tweeted a coffee and that 34% of users bought multiple gift cards. It suggested that around $180,000 worth of coffee had been bought through the promotion.
Even more importantly for Starbucks, it now knows the Twitter handle, mobile phone ID and customer ID for at least 54,000 customers.
I’m deeply sceptical of the efficacy of Facebook hashtags, however Starbucks was quick to trial the new social tool for yet another discount promotion.
To help publicise a new deal that offered customers a discount in the afternoon if they had already bought a coffee that morning, Starbucks tagged announcements of the offer with the hashtag #TreatReceipt.
According to SproutSocial, Starbucks also used the hashtag #heatwave on one of its posts to try and link its discount offer to ongoing conversations about the hot weather.
While a hashtag on its own doesn’t necessarily constitute a great social campaign, it’s interesting to see Starbucks trialling the new Facebook hashtags to promote a seasonal offer.
Snow day in real-time
When a blizzard hit the east coast of America in early 2013 Starbucks sprung into action with a series of Facebook and Twitter posts aimed at tapping into conversations around the snow storm, nicknamed Nemo.
As the cold weather set in social media users saw Starbucks ads showing people holding warm cups of coffee.
The ads were promoted through Facebook Marketplace Ads and Promoted Tweets, so appeared when people searched for weather-related hashtags such as #Nemo or #blizzard.
It’s an excellent example of real time advertising that is relevant to the brand, rather than an awkward attempt at newsjacking.
Grab some VIA and enjoy the snow. pic.twitter.com/fKTqmfgD
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) February 7, 2013
Behind the Scenes
Though not necessarily a specific campaign, Starbucks’ use of Instagram deserves a mention as it has been used as part of a brilliant branding exercise.
Starbucks doesn’t rely on any competition hashtags or gimmicks, but simply posts interesting images that give people a view behind the scenes of the company. Starbucks also reposts photos taken by fans that show its coffee cups in different locations.
This simple idea is a great way of creating a closer relationship with customers and softening the company image by showing the people behind the product.
Back in 2012 Starbucks teamed up with Foursquare for a charitable campaign that benefited AIDS awareness.
From June 1 to 10 Starbucks donated $1 every time someone checked into one of it locations in the US and Canada.
Starbucks set a limit of $250,000 on its donation to add to the $10m it has already donated to the RED charity’s fight against AIDS.
For its part Foursquare gave users a specially created badge if they took part in the campaign.
And one social fail
Just to show that even the biggest brands fall victim to social fails I’ve included this example from one of Starbucks’ Christmas campaigns.
As a PR stunt Starbucks displayed Twitter messages that used the hashtag #spreadthecheer on a big screen next to an ice rink at the Natural History Museum in London, 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…