In 2008 a leaked letter from CEO Howard Schultz claimed that Starbucks had lost its soul; and the media agreed. Five years later, Starbucks has used social media, along with drastic business measures, to prove to the world that it is not an “Evil Empire” and is once again, slowly, becoming viewed as a friendly neighborhood coffee shop.
In January 2008, Starbucks reinstated its CEO Howard Schultz, after an eight year hiatus. Schultz wasted no time in trying to bring back the company, which had suffered a 50% drop in stocks from 2007 to 2008. In February of 2008, the bold move to close all 7,100 U.S. stores for “employee training,” for 3 hours, was put into practice. While the stores were closed, the media storm was brewing, according to an article by Business Insider, “All major news outlets covered the closings: CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News. Stephen Colbert even covered it during his show.” That day Starbucks lost $6 million, it was a bold move for the bold roast coffee company.
Since 2008, the company has raised record revenues. According to the Starbucks Corporation Fiscal 2013 Annual Report in 2013 it had $14.9 billion in profits. The returns are the result of rebranding; along with the grand statement of closing the stores for re-training, Starbucks has implemented a strategic, creative and effective social media plan.
For a quick overview, Starbucks social media presence is as follows: Twitter – 6.63 million followers, Facebook – 13.4 million likes, Instagram – 3.1 million followers, as of September 2014 when this blog was written. Its followers are exponential compared to other household name brands. How does it do it though?
Starbucks uses social media extremely effectively. On its Twitter page you will find hundreds upon hundreds of replies to costumers. People get very excited over interaction with their favorite brands on Twitter, therefore creating brand loyalty. A terrific example of customer engagement is Starbucks’ Tweet a Coffee campaign in the fall of 2013. The campaign was a simple idea. Customers could send their friends a $5 Starbucks gift card with three easy steps: 1. Link Starbucks and Twitter accounts 2. Tag a friend and the handle @Tweetacoffee 3. The friend has $5 Starbucks gift card. To date, the campaign has had more than 92,000 participants, garnering more than $460,000 in revenue.
Pumpkin Spice Latte has become synonymous with fall. Starbucks recognizes that PSL is the top-selling seasonal seller. Starbucks launched a campaign for this drink this fall complete with, of course, social media presence. On August 4, 2014, @TheRealPSL was introduced to the world. The account for Pumpkin Spice Latte utilized a graphic of a PSL in orange sunglasses and clever tweets. The account has an impressive 92.1K followers.
As amazing as its Twitter is – and it really is – the Starbucks’ Facebook page deserves just as many accolades. When the February 2013 nor’easter, also known as Winter Storm Nemo, hit the east coast Starbucks already had a plan to cozy up the residents with a hot cup of coffee. Starbucks targeted Facebook and Twitter conversations centered around Nemo, then used Facebook Marketplace Ads and Twitter Promoted Tweets, to appear whenever the hashtags #Nemo or #Blizzard were used.
Starbucks has used social media to interact with its customers on a very personal level, reconstructing the neighborhood coffee shop feel. Howard Schultz remains CEO and, according to the Starbucks website, has maintained sustainable and profitable growth. The Seattle coffee company is continuing to dominate the marketplace; one person, one cup, one neighborhood, and one Tweet at a time.