Social Media and Employee Engagement: The Starbucks Example

tinageisel    February 1, 2015


Organization Name: Starbucks Corporation (Starbucks Coffee)

Industry: Coffeehouse

Name of contact if available: Howard Schultz, CEO

Web references:

Who Are They?
Basically you’d have to be living under a rock if you have not heard of Starbucks.
But sadly if you have, Starbucks Corporation, more commonly known as Starbucks Coffee, is an American coffeehouse chain based in Seattle, Washington with global locations.

Founded in 1971, Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world, serving hot and cold beverages and snacks. My personal favourite is their signature “Tall Skinny Blonde”, which coincidentally, I am enjoying while creating this blog post.

Employee Engagement at Starbucks:
Studies have shown that employee engagement increases company moral, employee motivation, efficiency and customer service. When engagement is done well, employees remain committed to their employer. Starbucks see their employees as more than just workers but also brand ambassadors. Effective employee engagement means that employees transition from workers who show up everyday to brand ambassadors who incorporate the company’s mission into their daily work.

A company’s efforts to boost employee engagement should translate into effective and strong customer service. Effective customer service starts from within an organization.
Starbucks cares so much about boosting customer service from within, that they spent
$35 million to send 9,600 store managers to their Leadership Lab conference and exhibition.

Fastcompany explains what the Leadership Lab is:

“Starbucks’s Leadership Lab is, as its name implies, part leadership training, with a station that walks store managers through a problem-solving framework. It’s also part trade show, with demonstrations of new products and signs with helpful sales suggestions, such as “tea has the highest profit margins.” The majority of experiences are meant to be educational, including several that give store managers access to top managers of the company’s roasting process, blend development, and customer service.

But what makes the Leadership Lab different than a typical corporate trade show is the production surrounding all of this. The lights, the music, and the dramatic big screens all help Starbucks marinate its store managers in its brand and culture. It’s theater–a concept that Starbucks itself is built on.”

Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz elaborates on Starbucks’ employee engagement and empowerment:

“Give them reasons to believe in their work and that they’re part of a larger mission, the theory goes, and they’ll in turn personally elevate the experience for each customer–something you can hardly accomplish with a billboard or a 30-second spot.”

We can use Starbucks’ methods to see how team building and employee
engagement can lead to better customer service as demonstrated below.

4 Tips for Increasing Employee Engagement from Starbucks:

1. Treat each store like a small business
2. Make employees feel like part of the larger mission
3. Be creative with training sessions
4. Develop a mission statement that matters

Starbucks mission statement:

The Leadership Lab experience gave employees a chance to reflect on the mission statement of Starbucks:

“To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

Starbucks invested $30 million in 2008 that focused solely on the mission statement.
The mission statement became more than just a clever-sounding phrase. It transformed into a call to action that employees could implement in their stores.

A deeper understanding of the brand helped Starbucks employees engage with their company. Running a small business within a global brand gives managers feelings of autonomy without disconnectedness.

STARBUCKS COFFEE COMPANY - True North Blend™ Blonde Roast

How Starbucks uses Social Media for business performance:

Social media is all about engagement – engaging with employees, consumers, brands.
In a report by Altimeter Starbucks was found to be the most social media engaged brand out of the World’s top 100 most valuable brands despite the fact that they are a not a technology company and the top 10 included companies like Google and Amazon that live and breathe digital oxygen.

Top 10 list of Global brand’s value and engagement within
social media channels:

  1. Starbucks
  2. Dell
  3. eBay
  4. Google
  5. Microsoft
  6. Thomson Reuters
  7. Nike
  8. Amazon
  9. SAP
  10. Yahoo! and Intel (Tie)

Starbucks scored the number one spot! How did they do it?
Alexandra Wheeler of Starbucks’ Digital Strategy department explains:

“We live in the physical world with thousands of natural touch points, so when we laid out the vision for our social strategy, it felt like home for the brand. It’s about the relationships we form with our customers, not marketing.”

When approaching social media channels, it’s important to keep engagement in mind, before any marketing strategy you might want to conduct.

Starbucks and the 4 keys to Social Media Engagement:
1. Emphasize quality not just quantity
2. To scale engagement make social media part of everyone’s job
3. Doing it all may not be for you – but you must do something
4. Find your sweetspot

Starbucks VP of Brand & Content and Online, Chris Bruzzo says:

“We live in the physical world with thousands of natural touch points, so when we laid out the vision for our social strategy, it felt like home for the brand. It’s about the relationships we form with our customers, not marketing.”

Some of the results of this vision:

  • Share price now over $20 instead of $7
  • Over 5 million Facebook fans
  • Quadrupled traffic to
  • 250 million global PR media impressions
  • 487 million global Facebook impressions


Starbucks Online Community:
Aside from coffee, Starbucks is a welcoming place to gather and share thoughts and ideas and join the discussion.

Screen shot 2015-02-01 at 2.00.24 PM

The Starbucks Digital Network:
When you’re at Starbucks, you get more than free Wi-Fi – you also get to access the Starbucks Digital Network which offers fascinating, free, Internet content from a variety
of partners. From exclusive movie trailers and videos, from one convenient location.

Screen shot 2015-02-01 at 1.22.04 PM

On the Starbucks® app for iPhone® you can Shake to Pay for a quick purchase, digitally tip your barista (employee), and download the Starbucks free Pick of the Week.

Lessons for others:

Can social media efforts be financially measured?
Studies have found that the most valuable brands in the world are experiencing a direct correlation between top financial performance and deep social media engagement. The relationship is apparent: socially engaged companies are in fact more financially successful.

Other Resources:

Submitted By: Tina Geisel
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If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Programme Director, Social Media for Business Performance.