Starbucks’ marketing power comes from its commitment to social media gas unlimited sugar land tx

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At the front of this group are the Starbucks fanatics. We all know them. They dare not sip another brand. They might not even use a cup that doesn’t have the familiar Starbucks logo on it. They are brand loyalists. Starbucks fans first, coffee lovers second.

But why such loyalty? Is Starbucks coffee that good (I ask, as I sip my Pike Place Roast)? Maybe. But there’s certainly something else at play, something very social: the meticulously cultivated Starbucks consumer experience. Starbucks and the Experience

Originally that experience consisted of local Starbucks coffeehouses, a rebirth of the cozy neighborhood coffee shop. Using a highly focused brand-centric strategy, Starbucks created a buzz with these popular storefronts. They began popping up everywhere, as coffee drinkers enjoyed Starbucks’ relaxed social atmosphere, where they could gather and caffeinate freely with friends. Good coffee was important, but the experience is what made the brand successful.

Today, the Starbucks experience has grown to include social media — or, should I say, devour social media. Since 2008, when then-new CEO Howard Schultz committed to a comprehensive social marketing strategy in response to the economic downturn, Starbucks has dominated social media, sitting comfortably atop many brand rankings. As shown in this article (and companion infographic), among “limited-service restaurants in the U.S.,” Starbucks is No. 1 in Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest followers. It also tops the field in Facebook “likes.” In fact, as of this writing, Starbucks has over 38 million Facebook fans, the fifth-highest total among all brands on Facebook.

This social media popularity has enabled Starbucks to really fine-tune its brand experience. Take Instagram for example, where sharing Starbucks-inspired artwork and photos is becoming a popular form of expression for both the company and its fans.

“Not only has Starbucks amassed an incredible amount of [Instagram] followers, but it lets its followers primarily control the content. The vast majority of the images on Starbucks’ account are creative fan-submitted images of the world-renowned coffee,” wrote Christina Austin in a blog at Business Insider.

At Britton Marketing, we’ve experienced this interaction firsthand. Graphic designer Danielle Hartmann recently created a cool Starbucks logo out of Legos. We shared it on Twitter (and other social channels), and Starbucks soon replied: “@BrittonMDG Love the LEGO creativity!” That made us proud. It made us love Starbucks. @BrittonMDG Love the LEGO creativity!

Of course it’s not just Instagram. Starbucks is committed to cross-sharing throughout the entire digital landscape, a strategy that is driving success. “When Starbucks takes a photo, it shares it on Instagram, posts it to Facebook, tweets it on Twitter, and pins it on Pinterest. It clearly goes to where all its customers like to hang out,” wrote Mike Schoultz of Digital Spark Marketing. “Each network provides an opportunity to reach a new audience.” Engaging, Personable, Omnipresent

In addition to social media, Starbucks is optimizing its engagement with fans through its website as well as popular mobile apps. With tools such as the My Starbucks Rewards program and the My Starbucks Idea crowdsourcing site, Starbucks is adding value with each interaction.

My Starbucks Idea is a highly social brainstorming platform for all things Starbucks. Fans can share and discuss new ideas, read others’ ideas and vote for their favorites. Right now there are more than 44,000 new ideas for coffee and espresso drinks; nearly 22,000 food ideas; and over 10,000 new ideas for music and merchandise. According to Schoultz, “The site is at once a crowdsourcing tool, a market research method that brings customer priorities to light, an online community, and an effective Internet marketing tool.”

There are even some ideas emerging on how to rescue Starbucks’ recent “ Race Together” campaign, where Starbucks employees were encouraged to write the words “race together” on cups to get customers to talk about the racial issues that still exist in today’s world. It turned out to be a social stumble for the company, as a wave of intense negative criticism came flooding in. In fact, CEO Howard Schultz had to write a letter to Starbucks employees to ease concerns over the controversial campaign. Perhaps “Race Together” was a bit of a social overreach.

But even with an occasional stumble, the Starbucks brand is alive and growing, reaching consumers in new, more-personalized ways. Take the popular My Starbucks Rewards program. It’s a highly interactive, personalized platform that offers special deals and various customized benefits, covering everything from merchandise to music selections to personalized signature drinks. For the Starbucks fanatic, it’s a convenient lifeline to the Starbucks experience.

Our own Meghan Britton-Gross, director of marketing services (and director of all things Starbucks), describes how the My Starbucks Rewards app has become a part of her life: “The My Starbucks Rewards app gives members free songs, apps and special offers. The part I have totally played into is the rewards program. I have a competitive spirit, and I worked myself through the membership levels to ‘Gold.’ It was exciting to get to Gold, but now that I’m there, I have to earn more stars to maintain it. For every 12 stars, I get a reward. I have to load money into the app and then pay through there. It’s ridiculous, but I kinda can’t stop.” (Meghan kindly shared this screen shot of her Starbucks mobile app.)

It’s apparent that Starbucks’ commitment to cultivating its consumer experience is what continues to set the brand apart from the competition. What started with the revitalization of the neighborhood coffeehouse has evolved considerably into social media marketing. But it’s not just “social marketing.” It’s Starbucks’ quality-over-quantity approach — that is, quality of content over quantity of followers. And encouraging fans to help curate this content is what makes it “quality.”

Of course having quantity in terms of social media followers certainly isn’t a bad thing. In a way, the sheer number of followers seems to reinforce Starbucks’ qualitative approach. People are talking about Starbucks. People are sharing the Starbucks experience.

As we’ve seen with other recent social marketing successes (“ Share a Coke,” “ Tesla Motors”), many brands prefer a strategy that allows them to maximize engagement with their fans. This social engagement is what cultivates the brand experience, and it’s something that can’t be attained by simply pouring dollars into traditional advertising. Why do the work (and pay for it) yourself, when your loyal fans can do it for you?

For Starbucks, an engaging, personable social presence adds value to an already popular brand. Plus, with Wi-Fi available at coffeehouse locations, fans can enjoy the full Starbucks experience all at once — in-store and online, in hand and on their phone. This high-touch, multichannel social strategy is winning brand loyalty. Even for these discriminating coffee drinkers, it’s the Starbucks experience first, coffee second. The results speak for themselves.