Starbucks: Social Media at Starbucks — Live from BlogWell

1:30 — Andy Sernovitz introduces Starbucks’ Director of Digital Strategy, Alexandra Wheeler, and Category Manager, Social Media, Matthew Guiste.

1:31 — Alexandra: I lead the digital strategy team, we look after all the paid digital advertising — as well as social media. Matthew is on my team and heads up our global social media efforts.

1:32 — Alexandra introduces their presentation, covering their 10 philosophies that guided the construction of their social media program.

1:32 — Alexandra: This is all about cultivating meaningful relationships with our customers. It’s not marketing. It’s not PR. It’s not a one-off. Worldwide, we have 8.2 million people that are Facebook fans. We’re hugely honored by that, and we want to ensure that those are meaningful relationships. It should be fun, interesting — at times, serious about getting together around shared ideals. Sometimes it’s about offers, but most of the time it’s not — it’s about all those other pieces of the relationship.

1:33 — Alexandra goes over a few examples of how they’ve introduced different components of the customer relationship with customers — fun stuff like interesting photos to regular stuff like promos and special offers.

1:35 — Alexandra introduces their second philosophy: Social media fits within a larger digital strategy. Alexandra describes a few “cross-pollination” programs, such as their global sing-along — which broke a world record — for “All You Need is Love.”

1:35 — Matthew introduces the third philosophy: Make it clear where to start.

1:36 — Matthew: We believe that when you get started, you have to be really focused. Matthew explains how they view their main accounts across Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as their door openers. They then have specified accounts for people interested in just coffee, or just jobs.

1:37 — Starbucks’ fourth philosophy: Look around the corners.

1:38 — Matthew explains the corners they look around: What is this experience going to be like the first time they see it? What will it be like for someone who comes along two months later? What will it look like if we have 10 times the traffic? What if we have one-tenth the traffic?

1:39 — Starbucks’ fifth point: Be authentic.

1:39 — Alexandra: I’m sure you’re all thinking “be authentic” isn’t a revolutionary idea, but it’s still a guiding principle for us. Alexandra describes how they’ve coached PR pros within their company to move from corporate speak to genuine conversations.

1:40 — Alexandra: The other side of being authentic is being authentic to the brand. Our brand started in a coffee house. It’s about that daily interaction with customers. We have a lot of permission to have that engagement online, and I can think of plenty of others who don’t.

1:41 — Starbucks’ sixth philosophy: Build a coalition.

1:41 — Alexandra: If we hadn’t build this coalition originally, we couldn’t have done what we recently did with Haiti. Alexandra describes how their partnerships with people within the company as well as individuals like Wyclef Jean and the Red Cross helped deal with the tragedy.

1:42 — Starbucks’ seventh point: If it doesn’t matter on Twitter, it doesn’t matter.

1:42 — Matthew explains how Twitter helps them keep a real-time eye on the conversation about their brand.

1:43 — Starbucks’ eighth point: The Four Responses: Amplify, Context-ify, Change, Ignore

1:44 — Amplify, Matthew explains, is when you see something fans seem to like and you help bring it to the surface and add visibility to it. Context-ify is when they use past content — such as the rumors that Starbucks doesn’t support the military — to clarify past issues. Change, Matthew explains, is the hardest, but the most important — and explains that is the best example of this. Finally, Matthew explains that “Ignore” can sometimes be the best idea — and sometimes the fastest way to make an issue go away.

1:45 — Starbucks’ ninth point: Ask for forgiveness, not permission.

1:45 — Alexandra talks about how they’re confident in what they do. She explains they didn’t start their Twitter and Facebook accounts by asking for permission — they just experimented their way in. She also explains that the space is very forgiving — as long as you’re willing to rectify things the right way, right away.

1:46 — Starbucks’ tenth point: An economic meltdown is a terrible thing to waste.

1:47 — Matthew explains how they took advantage of the economic downturn to experiment with new techniques. Matthew: A lot of companies are still at the bottom, and if so, that’s awesome. Take that opportunity and go back and make change.


Q: Ed Terpening of Wells Fargo says that while they’re very different businesses, he feels like they have similar philosophies. Have you thought about empowering all of your employees?

A: Matthew explains that they have a lot of employees and a lot of stores. What they’re doing is working to educate their employees on how to properly talk about Starbucks. He also explains their certification program that lets employees learn how to speak about the brand properly online.

Q: Charles Miller of DirectTV asks, “Has Starbucks been able to segment their approach based on the loyalty and familiarity of the fans?”

A: Alexandra explains that they have used some exclusive promotions run only through social media to analyze what the lift was. They’ve also looked at their communities like to see how they’re connecting with their fans online — as part of their overall funnel that moves customers along.

Q: Andy Sernovitz asks, “How big is your team?”

A: Alexandra explains that they sit on the digital side, with a total team of about 12 people, with about 3 people exclusively focused on social media.

Q: Andy asks, “How does your certification program work?”

A: Matthew explains it’s a class, that so far they’re only held at their Starbucks headquarters. He explains there’s a legal component and a PR component. Globally, they have conference calls and share ideas and best practices on how to develop these policies.

Q: Nancy from Apple Computers asks, “How are you keeping up and adapting to the changes of platforms like Facebook?”

A: Matthew explains that keeping up with Facebook is one of their joys and challenges. He says they’re constantly looking at responses to their posts over time and just trying to ride that wave over time.

Q: Chris Todd of Quicksilver asks, “How has Facebook advertising helped grow your Facebook fan page?”

A: Alexandra says it’s played an important role and uses an example of how they’ve used fan appreciation campaigns on Facebook — and that propelled them to be the number one brand on Facebook. Alexandra continues by saying that quality over quantity is important to them.

Q: Mark of Digital Brand Expressions asks, “How is your social media budget is set up?”

A: Alexandra says this is the first year their digital team has had a true budget, but they also use money from other departments.

Q: Andy asks, “How do you train the company to know they don’t have to respond to every crackpot on the internet?”

A: Matthew explains that he focuses on context and numbers — and looks at how influential and large the groups may be. He explains they also have metrics to measure how hot a topic is growing, and they’ve gotten really good at predicting how things will grow.

Alexandra adds that they work with the communications team to prepare to respond to issues in the event an issue blows up.

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