Starbucks keeping tabs on customers via Twitter

Date: 05/20/2009

Starbucks is one of many businesses exploring the use of Twitter as a component of its online social marketing campaign. I read an article in the New York Times entitled "New Starbucks Ads Seek to Recruit Online Fans." Evidently, Starbucks noticed that its online fans and followers race to post photos of its redecorated stores online (the article specifically mentions stores being redecorated for the holidays, but new stores and stores undergoing renovations have been posted online as well), and is trying to create similar buzz by enticing its fans to locate and shoot photos of a series of outdoor advertising posters, then be the first to post a photo online via Twitter.

I was disappointed when I read this article. This is a lame and uninspired idea, and is about as disappointing as their coffee.

However, I did wind up clicking on their Twitter account. (Here's the post from the first winner.) I was surprised to see that Starbucks is making excellent use of Twitter. Instead of merely running one lame contest through through their Twitter account, Starbucks is actively manning their account, and uses it to keep in touch with its customers, respond to their inquiries, and address their complaints.

Tweets include inquiries about recycling, a $0.10 discount if you bring in your own mug, nutritional information, locations where you can purchase Via, sending customer suggestions to its website, answering questions about specific coffees, fielding complaints about the way a drink was made, and much more, including perhaps the most powerful technique: simply apologizing when a customer experienced a problem with their drink or service.

In other words, Starbucks is using Twitter to connect with its customers in a genuine way. Better yet, from a reputation management perspective, Starbucks may be able to monitor (and head off) complaints from customers before they blow up online.

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