Social Media Critique: Starbucks

By Catherine and Katie

Introduction

Starbucks opened in 1971, just one store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Now, they have more than 30,000 locations across 70 countries employing over 340,000 people. Their mission statement is: “Inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Similarly, their core values are: “Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome; delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results; acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other; and being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.” Starbucks’s mission statement and values are shown through their social media use and CSR (corporate social responsibility.)

Starbucks’s CSR makes a great effort to deal with climate change. They’ve made many eco-friendly changes with their stores including sippy cup lids, resuable packing and investing $15 million to improve municipal recycling capability in America.

For our final project, Katie and I were asked to choose a demographic, and we decided on Generation Z and college students. As college students ourselves, we know how active we are on social media and the need for caffeine. We decided to focus on Starbucks’s Instagram, TikTok and Twitter presence. Choosing Starbucks was a “no brainer” for us, and we feel that though Starbucks does a pretty good job handling their social media, our critiques could enhance the company’s presence.

Instagram

Instagram was launched in 2010 as a platform to share photos and videos. Since then, Instagram has evolved tremendously and has implemented thousands of features that allow creators to express themselves, or their brand, in unique ways. Starbucks has a very strong presence on Instagram and utilizes their features to deliver the originality of the brand. They currently have approximately 18 million followers and 2,195 posts, which include both photos and videos. In addition, they have several highlighted Instagram stories pinned on their page, which allows followers to go back and see which stories they have posted in the past.

We believe the overall purpose of Starbucks in relation to Instagram is to promote the unique products they offer. Their content not only promotes their coffee products, but their other beverages and food items, as well. Their feed aesthetic is impressive with the use of bright colors, while also ensuring the logo is present. This is a strategic marketing tactic because if their posts were to appear on someone’s “Explore” page, they would easily be able to distinguish that the product is from Starbucks. In addition, Starbucks does a great job in tailoring their posts in order to reach their specific target audiences. The age demographic on Instagram ranges, with the majority 33% of users within the 25-34 age group, according to a study released in January of 2021. With this in mind, Starbucks certainly does still post content that appeals to other age demographics. 

Starbucks’s presence on Instagram is appealing to college students/Gen Z. One point that specifically stood out to us when reviewing their Instagram content was the usage of zodiac signs. On Instagram, many Gen Z users post memes and stories that highlight traits of their specific zodiac sign, and it appears that Starbucks also followed suit. One of their story highlights is entitled “Zodiac,” and features drinks from their menu they believe represent and resonate with each specific zodiac sign. Similarly, they captioned each story with a brief description on how each drink is fitting for that specific zodiac sign. 

TikTok

TikTok was initially released in 2016 and was popular in many East Asian countries. TikTok eventually made it to the United States when it merged with Musical.ly in 2017. A lot of TikTok is what Musical.ly was, but it has gained a lot more popularity, especially from Gen Z. TikTok is a “video sharing network.” As of 2020, Forbes reported that 60% of TikTok users are Gen Z, and TikTok has approximately 689 million users. 60% of 689 million is 413 million people.

Starbucks does not create a lot of content on TikTok, but when they do, they show the eco-friendly changes they have made within the company. Their most recent video includes a Q&A section with their Chief Sustainability Officer, Michael Kobori, where he revealed the $15 million they invested into municipal recycling. This was a genius move for Starbucks, because were able to interact with real TikTok users. Gen Z cares more about the environment and climate change than other generations, according to Fortune.com.

Starbucks uses TikTok wisely, and the majority of the posts are videos of their customers, reposted by the Starbucks account. While this is a strong Public Relations tactic as it shows what their customers think of their brand, it does not entirely display the many facets the company is composed of. After observing their TikTok presence, it’s evident their purpose on this specific platform is to share customer feedback and their positive or heartwarming experiences with the company.

Anna Sitar, “another day, another starbies,” TikTok star is always taking requests from her millions of followers as to what to order at Starbucks. Anna, @annaxsitar, also will ask the barista to make something random, or something that “feels happy.” She’ll ask for the favorite drinks, and record the whole process of getting her drink for her followers.

Anna with her “starbies”

They have posted a few of her videos, but they also post videos of customers who are not TikTok famous.

Twitter

Twitter is a social network company known for its microblogging style. Users can publish “Tweets,” which are short posts that can include photos, videos, links, mentions, and hashtags in 280 characters or less. Currently, Starbucks has 10.9M followers on their Twitter account. They also have their location as Seattle, WA, and a clickable link that directs followers to the Starbucks “Stories & News” webpage.

On Twitter, Starbucks is extremely interactive with their followers. The company has utilized this platform to better connect with their followers, whether it be recommending drink choices, answering questions, or praising their followers. In addition, Starbucks is very active on Twitter, tweeting multiple times per day. We feel that Starbuck’s purpose on Twitter is to interact with their customers. 

Compare and Contrast Social Media Platforms with Suggestions

Instagram

A suggestion for enhancing the company’s presence on Instagram would be to also promote the drinkware items they sell throughout their locations. Many students at Seton Hall University bring the Starbucks “cold cups” to classes, the gym, and the library to stay hydrated throughout the day. By advertising the various drinkware items Starbucks offers, their sales would increase. Instagram has a unique shopping feature that could be utilized by Starbucks, which would allow users to be directed to a link to purchase that specific product. 

The next suggestion would be to show more content that includes the food that Starbucks offers. While the company is a coffeehouse chain, they have expanded their menu to include a variety of food options. With algorithms coming into play on social media platforms, if Starbucks were to expand their content on Instagram to include more photos and videos of their food, it would reach more audiences who have “liked” similar content in the past. 

A final suggestion we have for Instagram is to better connect this to their other social media platforms to further appeal to our selected age demographic. While Starbucks does have a few photos on their Instagram of things that they have tweeted, there is definitely room for improvement. They can include links in their stories to their Twitter and TikTok accounts to increase their following. 

TikTok

To further improve the company’s TikTok presence, we would suggest creating a challenge or campaign for followers to participate in. Adding some sort of incentive, such as a video submission that would enter participants into a giveaway, could be a fantastic way to increase participation, as well as sales. Perhaps creating a limited-time “TikTok Drink” at all Starbucks locations could also be a great way to increase the company’s following on TikTok.

The next suggestion we have for Starbucks on TikTok is to partner up with influencers, or “TikTok Stars.” The company could utilize their relationship with @Annaxsitar, for example, to create another limited-time drink based on her favorite beverage. By doing this, Anna can help Starbucks better reach their target audience. 

Twitter 

As discussed earlier, Starbucks’s presence on Twitter is mainly centered around interacting with their customers. They do an excellent job in troubleshooting any issues customers might have, and ensuring their customers are satisfied.

With this in mind, we believe Starbucks could enhance their presence on Twitter further by posting more content displaying the other things the company has to offer, besides their beverages. Showing a “Pink Drink” next to one of their pink cold cups and a Birthday Cake Pop could be a great way to advertise all of their products (food, drink, and accessories) while remaining within their aesthetic.

Snapchat and Facebook

To further improve their online presence, we feel that Starbucks should focus on better incorporating Snapchat and Facebook in their social media practices. First, we’d like to discuss how Snapchat can be effectively utilized. Snapchat is a more non-traditional social media network, but can still be as effective if utilized properly. We believe Starbucks should focus on advertising on Snapchat. By using bright, creative, and attention-grabbing advertisements, users will be inclined to go out and purchase the products that are being shown. Another tactic we believe would be effective is to create a Snapchat filter each time a limited-time drink or product comes out. This will create excitement with customers, and will also allow them to express themselves on their stories and further promote the products.

On Facebook, the Starbucks page has approximately 36M likes. After reviewing their page and the content they post, there is a lot of room for improvement. Out of all of the social media platforms Starbucks is present on, they have the most followers on their Facebook page, but need the most improvement here. While Facebook is not most popular with our selected age demographic, the company still has a tremendous number of followers on this platform, so they must alter their content to meet the demographic on Facebook. Although creating a limited-time TikTok drink would not be most effective for the age demographic on Facebook, perhaps they could consider pairing up their drinks with different books or magazines, or even television shows that best complement those beverages, and posting that a few times a week. Another tactic that could be effective is promoting their rewards program on Facebook. By promoting content that explains the rewards program and how it works, more users will be inclined to download the app and enroll in the program.

Conclusion

Though Starbucks’ already has a good online presence, there is always room for improvement. We think that our critiques could really help gauge even more Gen Z and college students. They are already doing a great job, but they should try and make their platforms more coheasive. While TikTok is great for PR, Twitter for interacting with customers, and Instagram highlighting their drinks, they should try to achieve all on all platforms.

Furthermore, Starbucks has incredible community outreach efforts and CSR, and while they do publicize this on their social media accounts, we feel that highlighting this further would draw in even more followers. They should highlight more of their eco-friendly changes on Instagram and Twitter.

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