Has Social Media Failed Starbucks?

Harsh words by C. Edward Brice  about mystarbucksidea.com and Starbucks social media efforts at The Marketing Gimbal.   I couldn't agree more with the general proposition that a Youtube channel for Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts is basically just going to be filled with video press releases.

I don't know how well an outsider (even one as brilliant as I) can evaluate whether mystarbucksidea.com achieves Starbucks strategic business goals or solves its business problems, but I would suggest that the goals are close to these:

  1. Listen to the Starbucks community about the Starbucks experience from beans to online.
  2. Engage the community in a meaningful way-identify popular or insightful suggestions and engage in discussion with the community about these themes and ideas.
  3. Test ideas for effectiveness and profitability and customer loyalty.
  4. Report back to the community about the process and create a virtuous feedback cycle.

Compare to [share-vote-discuss-see] as the consumer call to action- I think I'm probably close.

If I were Starbucks, I'd be investing the most money in harvesting from the idea exchange, and trying to identify high-value ideas; I wouldn't just implement the most popular idea, though customer enthusiasm for an idea might be one important factor.  The Starbucks audience might be too broad to vote a really effective lid idea to the top, but how about posting that idea as a challenge somewhere else- there are lots of crowdsourcing innovation forums out there.

The engagement Starbucks can cultivate-online, outside the store environment- has intrinsic value, which is amplified by acknowledging this community and responding to its needs.  

Brice's point about getting the service element right is taken- there's no substitute for getting my coffee order right.  But assuming that problem is addressed through training, and that there is some other avenenue for testing its effectiveness, aren't we back to where we started?  Finding ways to engage Starbucks customer online, beyond advertising, ought to be seen as the major challenge.

I'm not personally a fan of the product (I'm a Peets drinker), but this element of the Starbucks marketing strategy always struck me as the right idea.