Social Media

Starbucks’ Venti Fan Community Overshadows Critics

June 11, 2009

Starbucks ........ (image via Flickr by mightykenny).
Starbucks’ Facebook Page  (shown above) is just the whipped cream on the Frappuccino – the brand also has a popular Twitter feed and (image via Flickr).

Starbucks has recently been on the receiving end of some bad buzz in social media, with netizens on Twitter, YouTube and the blogosphere targeting the company’s record on union issues, lambasting Starbucks as a bad employer. The video that kicked off the whole campaign accuses Starbucks of “a history of union busting,” and the campaign operates under the aegis of “Stop Starbucks” (or #stopstarbucks on Twitter).

These kinds of allegations have haunted a wide variety of major brands. But Starbucks seems to be weathering the storm extraordinarily well, thanks in part to its robust social media presence: Starbucks has a Twitter feed that regularly @ messages other Twitter users, thus proving the company is listening, providing value to brand advocates and encouraging constructive conversation around the brand.

Starbucks has an extremely active Facebook page with an aggressive editorial calendar that engages its fans and gives them an inside look at the internal workings of the company. And finally, Starbucks has its very own user community,, where Starbucks customers can suggest ideas for improving Starbucks products or locations, and see ideas other users have submitted.

And these social media presences are drowning out the “hater” sites. When you check out MyStarBucksIdea and look for union issues, you can find them – they’re buried beneath other topics, including whether Starbucks should carry ceramic cups for customers who want to drink their coffee in the shop, whether Starbucks should offer dark chocolate beverages, and even whether Starbucks should encourage discussion of art and culture in their stores. Without the branded communities that Starbucks has created, it’s possible that many of these conversations wouldn’t even be happening, and it’s certain that if they were happening, they wouldn’t be nearly as visible.

The disparity between the volume of conversation about Starbucks on social media and the conversations around the Stop Starbucks campaign is pretty shocking. For example, last week over 16,000 people tweeted about Starbucks, and only a handful of them mentioned the Stop Starbucks campaign in any way. In addition, the average Starbucks twitterer during that week had almost twice as many followers as the average StopStarbucks twitterer.

We talk a lot on this blog about the great things that building a strong social media presence can do for marketers. Here’s a great example of how maintaining that social media presence can help avert disaster. Building this kind of community on the Web can help insulate marketers’ brands from brand detractors by creating and amplifying the voices of brand evangelists, thus bringing positive conversations about the brand to the forefront of the social Web.