Friday, February 27, 2009

Starbucks is using Social Media

Nearly every time I write something about Starbucks, the folks in Seattle find it and read it. Recently I featured a story from Content Marketing Today. Here's an update:

Starbucks Listens. They Really Do Listen.

Posted: 27 Feb 2009 05:03 AM PST

starbucks barista What You Can Learn from Their Response to My Critical Commentary on Their New Instant Coffee Launch

Last week, I wrote a fairly skeptical post about the launch of Starbucks new instant coffee, Via Ready Brew. I suggested that it might suffer from a sad fate similar to that of ‘New’ Coke in 1984, in spite of the massive amount of research that both companies have conducted prior to the new product introductions.

In fact, I used the instant coffee launch to illustrate the power of the blogosphere for a mini case study with a class of PR strategy students from Florida Gulf Coast University. As a guest lecturer, I spoke to the class about content marketing and the growing importance of social media components such as business blogging. My Starbucks article and the company’s good-natured and gracious response perfectly illustrated the importance of monitoring and responding positively to the blogosphere.

In preparation for the class, I did a search on Starbucks and instant coffee on Google. Up came stories primarily from bloggers not from the mainstream media. Amazingly, if you search for ‘Starbucks instant coffee’ and ‘New Coke’, you actually pull up the article that I wrote.

Just as I was about to finalize and e-mail my presentation to the professor, I was surprised to receive a very gracious and good-humored response from Starbucks’ own Matthew Guiste, whose team is in charge of their social media efforts.

Here’s the comment that Matthew made to my post:

Thanks for the thoughtful commentary. I don’t know if it was a bazillion, but we did do a lot of research before this move, for sure. We think there’s a great opportunity in the market, one that tastes great and is 100% natural. As coffee-lover, I have a number of uses already in mind–visiting my father who lives in the country, to send to a friend of mine who’s office has bad coffee, and for mornings when I’m in a hurry. For reasons like that I personally can’t wait to get more than just my sample versions.

Did you get a chance to order a free sample?

Matthew’s comment was completely positive. Even better, he turned it into an opportunity to possibly persuade me of the error of my ways and encourage me that the new product would be a good thing.

Clearly, Starbucks has set up listening posts on the Internet so that it can monitor what people are saying about the company, its activities, and its products. When team members like Matthew respond to what they hear, they seek not to confront but to engage bloggers like me. That’s both positive and powerful in reinforcing the Starbucks image as good guys with great products.

Why you should emulate the Starbucks listening and response methodology

Today, it is both easy and free to monitor what others are saying about you, your products, your industry, and related issues on the Internet. With tools like Google Alerts and TweetGrid and TweetDeck for Twitter, you can monitor those activities in real time. Whenever appropriate, you can respond promptly–and positively–to what you hear. This makes for a wonderful way to engage both your customers and prospects as well as thought leaders on the web.

I may still be skeptical about instant coffee from Starbucks, but I sure admire their constructive use of social media to monitor and to engage folks who are taking an interest in the company. And, I do love their coffee.

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