Starbucks: Brewing Customer Experience through Social Media

Case Details Case Introduction 1 Case Introduction 2 Case Excerpts

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Starbucks Embraces Social Media

From the beginning, Starbucks had been a tech-savvy company. It had ventured into media products like CDs and videos. It was also involved in websites like Yahoo! In association with Yahoo!, Starbucks was involved in marketing the Yahoo! personals site. For some time, it was involved in creating personalized CDs for its customers at its outlets. It had a custom channel in iTunes, and was also involved in distributing weekly iTune songs.

In 2008, the social media was abuzz with negative reports about Starbucks. A popular magazine in the UK carried a report about Starbucks wasting more than 23 millions of liters of water a day by keeping the taps running in all its outlets across the world. The magazine claimed that the water wasted by Starbucks could meet the daily water needs of millions of people in the drought-hit countries of Africa. Peter Robinson, of Waste Watch , said: “Leaving taps running all day is a shocking waste of precious water.

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In the annual shareholders meeting in March 2008, Starbucks announced several customer-facing initiatives to halt sliding sales. These included introduction of semi-automatic espresso machine that allowed baristas to make eye contact with the customers; complete reinvention of brewed coffee in-store; introduction of loyalty program that would reward registered cardholders; strengthen Starbucks’ relationship with Conservation International ; and the launch of, marking Starbucks’ entry into the social media arena.........


In mid 2008, The company was looking at different ways to engage with the customers through the social media. A barista with the company, Brad Nelson (Nelson), who was keen on being a part of Starbucks’ online efforts, approached Chris Bruzzo (Bruzzo), Vice President brand content and online, and told him about opportunities on Twitter, and how Twitter could be used to communicate with customers on a real time basis. He put forward the idea that interacting through Twitter was like being an online barista. Starbucks entered the world of Twitter in July 2008, with Nelson as its product manager........


Starbucks’ Facebook page was created in November 2008. At that time, there were already some fan pages of Starbucks existing on Facebook. The company approached those who owned the pages, informed them that it was starting an official Facebook page, and asked them to be a part of it. At the beginning, Facebook had a small community of Starbucks’ fans. The company then carefully built the community by constantly updating the pages with relevant content, experience, and offers to the members. According to Bruzzo, “It’s not like we started our Facebook community, got to a million people, and started pushing offers at them.........

Moving Ahead

Starbucks also had a presence on YouTube. It used YouTube to upload videos about its brand, advertisements, videos of its voluntary activities, its beginning, events in its history, origins of different coffee blends, etc. Starbucks allowed the videos that it uploaded on YouTube to be embedded anywhere on the web. Starbucks also had a presence on Instagram, which was a smartphone app that allowed users to share photographs in a stream. Through Instagram, Starbucks posted pictures of its products, outlets around the world, in-store ambiance, coffee tasting sessions, new product ideas, logo ideas, etc........

Social Media To Improve Customer Engagement

Starbucks engaged with customers in multiple ways through social media. This ranged from serious issues like World AIDS Day or having fun on the April Fool’s Day, introducing new products, increasing awareness about the brand, gathering ideas, holding contests, etc. Instead of using social media as an advertising platform, Starbucks used it to provide customer experience and to build relationships. According to Annie Young-Scrivner, global CMO, listening to customers and engaging with them “has allowed us to stay very fresh........


In 2010, Starbucks became the first consumer brand to have 10 million fans on Facebook and was ranked No.1 in online engagement. It also reached the milestone of becoming the most tweeted brand. Analysts pointed out that the Starbucks experience, which had been lost in the rapid expansion of Starbucks had been brought back by the social media initiatives. They also said that Starbucks continued to provide its unique experience to customers even if they were away from the retail location, by remaining connected with them through the social media........


Exhibit I:Phase One – Measuring Social Media Engagement
Exhibit II: About Social Media
Exhibit III:Starbucks – Selected Financial Data
Exhibit IV: Starbucks – Quarterly Financial Information (2011)