Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Elephant in Starbucks’ Social Media Room

One of the hottest social media case studies going these days is Starbucks. And as everyone’s pointing out, they’re doing a bang up job. So many great lessons other brands can learn. Listening (My Starbucks Idea), loyalty (online card tracking), engage (responsive Facebook presence) … just about every social media buzzword you can think of, they’re nailing it.

But there’s something at the heart of so many of their programs... People aren’t talking about it, but it’s critical. It’s how much “doing good” they use in the mix.

Here’s a great keynote speech by Starbucks Director of Social Media at some conference. It’s great. You can feel the hype in the room about the seamless coordination of digital and traditional. (Thanks to Griffn Farley for sharing this video on his blog, Propagation Planning.)

Did you notice how much Good they’re weaving into their marketing? And nobody’s talking about it. No one’s diagnosing it, analyzing it, figuring out how to adopt it as part of their model. Bizarre.

I guess it’s such a part of the Starbucks DNA that it’s a foregone conclusion. “They crowdsourced video from around the world! They created a movement online! They increased participation and talk value for the brand!” But let’s talk about the foundation of that program: Doing Good. The speaker all-but glosses over the very heart of what makes this effort succeed. “It’s supports our involvement in Project (RED), it launched on World AIDS Day, and we donated 5-cents for every cup of coffee we sold to the Global Fund.”

When we look to the Starbucks social media case study, we have to learn from the Purpose they build from. If you try to do this without a charitable component, would it stand a chance?

That great stunt of people coming together to make a big collage of coffee cups that made a huge drawing of a tree? So cool. And by the way, let’s not forget, the reason everybody is doing this fun thing is to reduce waste and save trees. A great effort, perfect for the brand, built on a foundation of Purpose from which to launch a cool execution. Her result: “We increased Facebook fans by 20%.” Personally, I’d like to know how much waste they reduced, or how many trees they saved, because that’s the thing people are becoming a fan of.

When I click “Like,” I’m not saying I like Starbucks coffee. I’m saying, “I like that Starbucks is doing big things to help the environment.” And so, I want to have a relationship with this brand.

And the bit about Haiti? Seems it had a lot more to do with doing Good than any expert deployment of social media.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this presentation, and I’m definitely looking to Starbucks to learn how to market online. But I’d love to hear the other half of this presentation; the one about how powerful doing Good is. The part about how to build Good into a marketing plan, how and when to tie it to sales, and how to deal with the politics and PR of it all. I’m sure there’s a lot we can all learn from that story as well.

My takeaway: Social media and doing Good work insanely well together.

Give people something to believe in, and give them a way to get involved.