Starbucks is one of the most successful and effective brands on social media.

In 2018, it won a silver IPA Effectiveness award for its social strategy, which reportedly returned almost £4 in additional profit for every £1 invested. Since then, Starbucks has kept up the pace on social media, with a variety of strong social campaigns contributing to its continued growth in global markets.

With this in mind, here are eight of Starbucks’ most interesting campaigns on social media from the past few years.

Social Media Strategy Best Practice Guide


The Unicorn Frappuccino was available to buy for just three weeks in April 2017; however, its impact lasted much longer. The drink – a sugary and vibrantly-coloured concoction – exploded on social media, which was no accident. Starbucks deliberately created the limited-edition product with social in mind, assured that loyal customers would post about it.

Even now, the hashtag #unicornfrappucino is linked to more than 154,000 images on Instagram alone. The majority of the most recent images are recreations of the Starbucks original, which just goes to show how limited-edition products can have a long-lasting impact.

Since, Starbucks has continued to experiment with secret menu items, effectively building buzz on social and directing customers into stores.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

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 hallowed 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.

Starbucks Stories (to be human)

Starbucks launched ‘Starbuck Stories’ in early 2019 – a content website that focuses on storytelling related to the brand’s social impact. It also rolls out this content on its related social media channels, including Twitter and Instagram.

One of the most effective and popular types of content found on Starbucks Stories is its illustrated series #ToBeHuman. This involves short but engaging video illustrations, which are overlaid with audio of various Starbucks employees telling personal and uplifting stories.

As Starbucks’ main social channels are centred around product-focused content, Starbucks Stories allows it to give an insight into the people who work in its stores and show a much more human side to the brand.

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Not all brands that celebrate Pride month are entirely sincere. The term ‘rainbow-washing’ refers to companies who do not support LGBTQ+ rights throughout the year, and merely use the rainbow flag as a short-term marketing ploy.

However, for companies like Starbucks – which has a long history of supporting LGBTQ+ communities, and launched the Starbucks Pride Alliance Network back in 2007 – it’s a chance to highlight a genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion.

In 2019, the ‘Extra Shot of Pride’ campaign generated high levels of interest and engagement on social, in celebration of the launch of Starbucks rainbow-coloured reusable cups across the US and Canada.

Starbucks created colourful and inspiring social content to promote its partnership with the Born this Way Foundation (and its related pledge to match any donations to the charity up to $250k), posting inspiring Pride-themed quotations and celebrating the stories of its LGBTQ+ members of staff on social media.


In 2017, Starbucks returned with season two of ‘Upstanders’ – a series of 11 short films about US citizens showing outstanding acts of courage, generosity, or kindness within their own communities. Using genuine storytelling, the aim was to counteract the influx of negative and downbeat news elsewhere on social media.

As well as rolling out the series on its own app and social channels, Starbucks also amplified reach with third-party partnerships. It debuted the series on Amazon Prime and Audible, and became the first non-media company to release content on Facebook Watch.

Additionally, Starbucks launched the ‘Upstanders Challenge’ – a user generated competition that generated over 1,000 entries. Starbucks went on to award more than half a million dollars in grants to non-profit organisations making a difference in small communities.

Proving that coffee sales isn’t the only priority for Starbucks, the series is another example of the brand’s inspiring approach to social content.

Red cup art

The Starbucks red cups have become a celebrated and sought-after part of the holiday season – and a regular sight on its social channels. In 2016, the brand launched the ‘Red Cup Design Challenge’, inviting fans to design their own cups and post them on social media.

A nice example of co-creation; Starbucks picked 13 winners whose designs were launched in-stores for the festive period.

The brand continued the personalisation theme the following year, releasing white cups that customers were encouraged to colour-in with pencils in-store, and naturally creating user-generated content at the same time.

By inviting its customers to get involved with seasonal marketing activity, Starbucks has ensured that it remains top of mind for many people around Christmas time.

Leaf Rakers Society

Not so much a campaign as a year-round marketing activity, Leaf Rakers Society is a Starbucks Facebook group for lovers of the famous pumpkin spice latte and “all things Fall”.

Now with more than 37,000 members, the private group helps Starbucks to generate ‘meaningful interactions’ on Facebook, which is now a prioritised metric for brands above likes and followers.

The benefits for Starbucks are to foster and further loyalty, with the group helping to create a sense of community and belonging for members. With no direct branding or advertising – just the stipulation that members keep it strictly Starbucks-related when talking about drinks – it maintains authenticity and creates naturally high levels of engagement.

Why Starbucks’ Facebook group for ‘PSL’ lovers is a lesson for brand marketers

Say it with Starbucks

Luckin recently overtook Starbucks as the largest coffee chain in China, but the latter’s success in this market is still not to be overlooked. Part of this has been an astute social media marketing strategy, which certainly speaks to a highly tech-focused population.

In 2017, it partnered with Tencent to launch the ‘Say it with Starbucks’ campaign. It was designed to promote a new social gifting feature on WeChat, which allows users to send their fellow WeChat friends a voucher for a coffee redeemable at any Starbucks location. A clever twist on hongbao – which is the tradition of sending red envelopes containing cash for Chinese New Year – the feature allows users to gift a coffee any time they like.

According to reports, approximately 1.2 million gift vouchers were sent in the first seven weeks after ‘Say it with Starbucks’ launched.

Credit: testing /

Social Media Strategy Best Practice Guide