This review is a part of our ‘Social Media Strategy Review’ series where we do a 360 degree analysis of a brand’s social media activity. You can read the reviews of more brands here.
Originally an American coffee chain, Starbucks entered the Indian market in 2012 in collaboration with Tata. With a desi-videsi partnership that is almost a year old, what is the kind of social media activity that emerges out of the brand? We analyse it in detail here.
The audience of the brand is distributed among all age groups with the majority belonging to the middle aged bracket.This is understandable with respect to the product concerned.
With a majority of male audience, the user sentiment garnered by the social media activity of the brand is mostly positive. This positive sentiment is apparent when the amount of feedback the page receives on a daily basis is observed.
Starbucks India's online strategy is extremely focused on the product offered. They talk about what they sell. They do not have dozens of chocolate brownies that make you crave for desserts laden on their social media platform. In addition to this, they stick to an agenda.
So for the month of September, their area of focus was the newly introduced Pumpkin Spice Latte whereas in August, it was a 'Passion for Coffee' campaign. However, they center only around Facebook and Twitter, being ignorant of other social media platforms that are being used rather actively by the brand's competitors.
Starbucks India on Facebook
Starbucks India's presence on Facebook, though not a highly active one, promotes the brand just right. Majority of the posts are images that elicit responses and involve user engagement which is good for a brand that is almost a year old. The fan count at around 85k is acceptable .
The kind of content posted on the page is mostly images with almost no text-only posts. Well stylised images of drinks are posted along with information of new services and newly opened branches. The use of hashtags is there, though not consistent. However, the choice of hashtags is not that 'intelligent'. While a #PassionForCoffee can be used to create buzz around a theme, #PSLIndia for a Pumpkin Spice Latte is not that 'innovative'.
Somehow the brand propagates the idea of a high standard of service throughout its online presence. The extremely enthusiastic fan community that participates in the online channels via personal experience and feedback for the staff adds to the credibility of the generally positive opinion. It is an interesting source of study since the feedback for individual staff members are posted on the page.
One thing that's lacking in this entire exercise, however, is the participation at Starbucks's end. While they do respond to negative feedback, positive feedback is not appreciated on the page. This could be done by sharing the feedback on the page or by replying to and thanking the community for their positive response.
Starbucks on Twitter
With a total of 300+ tweets in its kitty, Starbucks India’s Twitter strategy reflects the brand’s undeniable presence in India. However, the brand’s responsiveness is much better on this portal as compared to that on Facebook. In addition to negative feedback, positive feedback is responded to as well. The frequency of tweets is erratic though, with there being days meant for Twitter followed by several when the portal is ignored.
However, it was often noticed that the customer's query was not solved directly and an indirect response was given.
In terms of the campaigns being run on Twitter, the brand created reasonable buzz around a forthcoming outlet in Juhu with the hashtag #StarbucksJuhu.
They also conducted a contest, where the first five people to share a photo of the outlet with the hashtag #StarbucksJuhu got free Starbucks merchandise. It was a standardized contest, but the issue here was that there wasn't enough 'buzz' around the contest. In fact, the winning tweets weren't even retweeted later.
Comparison with competitor
In comparison to the niche audience and limited outlets of Starbucks, is the success of Cafe Coffee Day (popularly referred to as CCD), one of the most popular Indian coffee outlets. CCD's chain in India is over 25 years old as compared to Starbucks's one year stint.
Hence, the former poses a greater threat and competition with a huge online fan community. With over 3 million fans on Facebook and around 13k followers on Twitter, it makes Starbucks's online campaigning more challenging.
In addition to this, CCD's focus on other online portals such as Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and FourSquare also adds to their presence on social media.
In terms of content, CCD does share those 'awe-inspiring' photos of the perfect cups of coffee and that delicious chocolate sundae. Along with that, there is a series of LOL cat memes. Oh yes, you forgot them, but CCD hasn't! The use of applications on CCD's Facebook page and the entire look is surely tastefully done. All outlets are marked on a map and then placed on a tab.
Other platforms such as Pinterest have CCD merchandise as well as infographics in place which is again a good way to leverage brand presence. Everyday pictures from the brand's outlets also surface on their Instagram account.
CCD is also on YouTube and while the account does not have a proper description in place, there are videos where celebrities such as Konkona Sen talk about the brand and other one-minute videos about specific products as well. There is also a Foursquare profile which make exploring and checking-in to various CCD outlets a breeze.
In terms of the sentiment analysis, Starbucks India maintains a greater positive sentiment, while the two brands share a similar percentage of negative sentiment.
The difference in the community size however, gives greater amount of engagement to CCD's social media strategy. The stark difference in the likes can also be due to Starbucks's limited approach as opposed to CCD's aggressive social media activity.
Being an international brand name, with higher costs and lower availability, Starbucks's online campaign is sophisticated, as of now, and one that is not using the experiential element of marketing to its fullest. While customers are sharing their experiences at Starbucks aggressively, Starbucks hasn't been returning the enthusiasm.
Though there is an acknowledgement of negative feedback, the conversation is soon steered off the social media. Moreover, since there are lesser number of Starbucks outlets, reaching out is an even bigger challenge. In comparison to CCD’s cross media approach, Starbucks' limitation to Facebook and Twitter is a matter of concern as well.
There could be visual tours of all stores before they are inaugurated, there could be a visual compilation of the feedback received, and perhaps the menu up on the Facebook page. A lot of queries keep coming in asking for the nearest outlet from a certain location. Why not take a tip from CCD and place a map with all locations? Even if we plan to keep it simple and maintain a standardized brand image, there is a lot that can be done.
Starbucks India underperforms on social media on many counts in India in spite of being well known for its social media exploits in the west. The customer centric focus is missing with they being reticent in their approach on social media.
On the whole even though their footprint in India is limited that is no excuse for having a soft social media presence. They need to be more forthcoming in addressing negative queries and also help customers in their queries by simplifying information access on their page.
Twitter is an always on medium and cannot be treated periodically if anything it should a daily engagement medium.
All this and more needs to be done to get Starbucks presence upto speed.
Expert View by Rajiv Dingra Founder & CEO of WATConsult – An Award Winning Digital & Social Media Agency.
Analytics support courtesy: Simplify360