Starbucks: Social Media Revenue Based on Relationships


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The Challenge: How can brands turn their social media fans into revenue? For Starbucks, success through social media begins with a commitment to relationship-building, not sales.

Many companies concentrate social media efforts on getting as many fans as possible, but focusing just on the number of fans misses their true value – they are loyal customers who have raised their hands to say they want a relationship.

The real win is achieved by engaging with customers. An Ad Age study found that only 1% of the Facebook fans of major brands engaged with the brand pages in a given month. One-time promotions to increase the number of fans rarely produce long-term benefits. IBM’s Yunchun Lee writes, “That isn’t to say that CMOs shouldn’t strive to build a fan base. The issue is how to do this in a productive way. There are no short cuts. Winning a loyal customer begins with matching a great product or service with a flawless and repeatable customer experience.” Social media marketing requires a long-term commitment to enriching the customer experience.
Starbucks is a great example of a company taking the right approach. In an interview with Adweek , Starbuck’s Alexandra Wheeler said that the firm’s social media strategy “isn’t a marketing initiative. It isn’t a PR initiative. It’s cultivating and creating great consumer value and great consumer relationships.” Starbucks treats its fans to a steady stream of special deals and a richer experience than they’d get solely by going to a store, including interesting background stories on coffees and great photography of merchandise. Starbucks also encourages fans to share all of this with their friends, which spreads the good will and increases the likelihood that posts will appear more widely in newsfeeds.
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The results?
2. According to a joint study by comScore and Facebook, Starbuck organically reaches more non-fans than fans with its posts on its Facebook brand page. This means that fans engaging with or forwarding content more than doubles the reach of the fanbase – a process Facebook calls amplification.
3. The same study also shows that exposure to a Starbucks post leads to 38% increase in in-store purchases.
Key Takeaways for Marketers
1. Don’t just add fans, build a genuine connection with them.

Although a large fan-base is valuable, it should be based on a genuine connection with the brand. Make it a long-term strategy to identify why consumers love your brand and use social media to build on this.

2. Make engagement worthwhile.

Deliver content that fans want and will forward to others. Great photography, stories about coffee, exclusive deals – even taking a stand on controversial issues — are ways Starbucks does this.

3. Use the brand page as a listening tool.

Fans give invaluable information with their likes, comments and user-generated content. Respond to any complaints, or proactively offer solutions as customer needs arise.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ernan Roman
Ernan Roman (@ernanroman) is president of ERDM Corp. and author of Voice of the Customer Marketing. He was inducted into the DMA Marketing Hall of Fame due to the results his VoC research-based CX strategies achieve for clients such as IBM, Microsoft, QVC, Gilt and HP. ERDM conducts deep qualitative research to help companies understand how customers articulate their feelings and expectations for high value CX and personalization. Named one of the Top 40 Digital Luminaries and one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing.


  1. Ernan –

    Thank you for this post. It’s a terrific case study and represents the kind of out-of-the-box set of informal social approaches, and intelligent relationship-building and leveraging plan, that marketers need to see. It helps them understand how this type of communication can effectively monetize, and grow to create deeper customer bonding, and build value, over time.

    Michael Lowenstein, Ph.D., CMC
    Chief Research Officer
    The Relational Capital Group


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