Starbucks Offers Free WiFi to Drive Social Media

cbaccard    March 8, 2012

Organization:  Starbucks:

Industry:  Specialty Food / Retail Food Service

Web References:

Http: (Canada) (U.S.)

Starbucks’ Virtual Suggestion Box:  “Got a great idea?  We want it!  Share your ideas and see what others are suggesting at My Starbucks Idea.”

Social Responsibility Statement:  It’s our commitment to doing business in ways that are good to the earth and good to each other. [This is Starbuck’s online invitation to join the Conversation on Twitter]


Most experts will agree that Starbucks has one of the best social media strategies out there.  Now that it is giving away free WiFi, it is even more of a magnet for roving laptop warriors.  Starbucks drives a global brand and uses social media to reinforce and extend their asset. Although Starbucks employs a very complex marketing strategy, their social media strategy can be described as a hub and spoke strategy. The Starbucks hub is their website The spokes are the different social media platforms used by their current and potential customers. Starbucks is adept at leveraging the strengths of each social media tool to create value for their audiences. 

And with 10 million Facebook fans, / 22 million “likes”, Starbucks is now close to surpassing the Facebook fan base of Lady Gaga. The Starbucks Facebook page enables searching for Starbucks stores, general company information, links for sharing gift cards, links to international locations, over 100 photos and videos plus hundreds of photos and videos tagged by Fans. The company has held a number of promotions on its page to drive engagement. For example, Starbucks held a promotion for free pastries on its Facebook page, allowing customers to access a coupon that would give them a free pastry with a purchase of a coffee drink. Advertising on the social network has also helped to drive traffic to Starbucks’ page. 

In terms of Twitter, Starbucks has also been incredibly active on the microblogging network, amassing nearly one and a half million followers. Not only does the company’s Twitter stream serve as an engagement tool with customers who are talking about the brand on Twitter, but it is also used as a way to spread news from Starbucks. Starbucks has also participated in Twitter’s promoted Tweets program, which allows advertisers to buy sponsored links on Twitter.  Multiple tweets per day are posted and many tweets are directed to individuals. Content of many tweets include hot news and insider information, as well as promotions in store and online, and tweets include information on jobs available at Starbucks. Crowdsourcing is employed at times – for example the “Design Your Own Frappuccino” campaign. Starbucks employs multiple twitter handles to assist their audiences with receiving the information that they desire.

With over 6.5 million views, Starbucks effectively uses YouTube. The featured content on include four videos. The Starbucks channel on YouTube has over 10,000 subscribers. Starbucks has embraced web video as a promotional tool used to engage their online audiences and generate interest.

The combination of geolocation and social networks is also a huge avenue for Starbucks and the company was one of the first major brands to broker a deal with popular location-based social network Foursquare. In March, Starbucks started offering Foursquare mayors of retail stores special ‘Barista’ badges that would come with discounts on drinks and food. Starbucks also partnered recently with mobile social network Brightkite to give members special discounts on drinks.

Starbucks Flickr group pool boasts over 4,000 group members and over 18,000 items. Photos typically display Starbucks branded items and/or people smiling and having fun. Starbucks is a great example of a major brand’s effective execution of Social Media Marketing.

Finally, Starbucks also uses LinkedIN, but more so for HR functions rather than marketing purposes.  Starbucks has over 49,000 LinkedIn followers, over 16,000 employees and contractors, and 31 employee networks listed onLinkedIn. They list new hires, post tweets, provide stock information, company information, and corporate information. Starbucks effectively uses LinkedIn as a tool for building connections with potential human resources.

Lessons Learned: 

  • put a new media twist on classic marketing promotions, ie. free sampling
  • engage with customers on their turf, by providing multiple twitter handles
  • to be a leader, go above and beyond by installing wifi in your locations so customers can view your YouTube channel and tweet about you from inside your own stores