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.

Press Releases: More Important than Ever

Press releases are necessary for large companies in times of social media. According to PRWeb press releases used to be made “fit for print.” A.K.A., press releases were created for major newspapers and magazines. Companies would use press releases to journalists and big publications. Now that we have social media, press releases have changes quite a bit.

              Because people have news on their phones constantly, in the same article, we read that that there was a substantial decline in reading newspapers and watching news on TV. Press releases are done more often on social media and websites, to build up the brand. Before the internet, companies would only use press releases for important news, from a comment on an incident to important company news.

              It’s also important to now use SEOs in your releases, because it helps boost the releases when searched on Google. To learn more about SEOs, read back on my blog here. It’s important to use videos and photos in a release, because it helps gain more views.

              Sending a release that is truthful is so important. Anything that can be questioned will be found out, because it is so easy to be “cancelled” these days, especially on social media. Good, clear writing with informational quotes is necessary for a release.

Override the Algorithm

Social media algorithms can be frustrating for users, especially on apps like TikTok. I know I have posted a video I thought would go viral, but was not picked up by the algorithm. Algorithms are calculated carefully, and tend to change the more time you spend online, posting and liking different posts. An example they use in Forge and Smith’s article is the explore page on Instagram. It usually comes up with things related to posts that you’ve shared, liked or commented on. Another example would be TikTok’s For You page.

There are many problems with the algorithm, including your own followers not seeing your posts. I run into this problem a lot with Instagram, especially when they made that big timeline switch in 2017. The app used to allow you to see all of your followings posts in chronological order, but now the algorithm picks and chooses what comes up on your page.

Improving your own social media can be a long process, because sometimes the algorithm won’t pick it up, even if it is relevant. But to do your best in getting around the algorithm, in that same article is encouraging interaction on your post. Another thing that I spoke about on my blog already is using search optimization. Key words are a great start for an SEO. Researching the algorithms as much as you can only help you in the future.

Quit Buying Followers: Learn SEO

Search optimization is important for any brand or blog. SEOs help your brand or blog appear in some of the first pages on Google. Though people do not usually go past the first or second pages, this drives traffic to your blog. In this article, we learn in order to achieve search optimization you must choose key words and phrases that people would put into Google. Figuring out which keywords you need involves doing research on your target audience.

After getting the attention from people on the web, making them engage with the posts becomes the most important part. It even trumps the amount of followers you have, as said here. An important way of gaining engagement is by getting shares on your posts or webpage. The more shares you have, the heavier impact you had with your public.

By building a relationship with your audience and understanding what they would like to see more of, they have more trust in your brand.

Buying likes, followers and shares is useless because you are losing focus on your target market. Not to mention, most are from bots. Focus on building a relationship with your followers and audience and your brand will build.

The Problem of Fake News

Social media has changed the way we receive our news, and because the word is spread so quickly it is important to be able to recognize what is real news and what’s fake. According to Forbes and the Chicago Tribune, fake news travels fastest on Facebook. This is a problem because in 2020 there are 2.8 billion Facebook users a month.

When we think of fake news, we tend to go back to the elections. These stories misinformed voters with false information. In the article from NPR, it was noted that right before the election, fake news spiked in interaction from users. It was also mentioned that these stories got more engagement than some of the biggest media outlets.

Learning how to spot fake news is important for everyone. In order to do so, an article from factcheck.org tells us to read beyond the headline, check your sources, check the author, as well as looking for grammatical and spelling issues.

Facebook itself is trying to get rid of fake news by building new products, including ranking improvements, easier reporting and working with partners. Easier reporting is important for flagging down misinformation, but can also be dangerous. Making posts easier to report can possibly censor some people.

Stay away from fake news, and check your sources.

Blogging for PR – To be or not to be?

Blogs have gotten a bad rep now that social media has slowly taken over our lives.

That does not necessarily mean that blogging is not useful for people in public relations today. In an article from CPCommunications, there are points made as to why blogging can be so important for those in PR. They make points that it can help a company publish what they want to, quickly and effectively. If need be, you can even post press releases straight onto your blog, then sending it out to a news station. You can easily reach the audience you wanted to reach. In my opinion, blogging should be a necessity to all PR professionals, because if you do not learn how to blog first, someone else will.

A professional blog would be much different than a personal blog, and with the rise of social media you can keep your business on your company’s site, and your personal life on your own social media accounts.

Social Media Scavenger Hunt

Crowdsourcing is a great way to dip into the community and explore other people’s opinions. In my social media class at Seton Hall University, Julia @shujulialo and I participated in a scavenger hunt and asked out classmates questions on social media to discover some college student favorites.

Using Instagram stories, we were able to get feedback on topics including best restaurants in South Orange, interesting facts about Seton Hall, where students receive their news and heard from people that love showing their pirate pride.

Though everyone in the class did a really great job with their scavenger hunts, there were only five I could choose as my favorite. My top tweet is from Allison, who revealed that the Pirate’s Cove used to be a full bar. I replied to this tweet with, “How did I not know that? I wish is still was!” The next tweet was from Elyse about how people are trying to stay involved on campus, and they really are not. The pandemic has really changed everything for SHU students and it was really interesting to see people’s takes on that. Katie’s tweet about Seton Hall Pirates originally being named SHU Villagers was also another great fact that I did not know.

The next tweet was from Laura where she spoke about the hiking trails at the South Mountain Reservation, and added beautiful photos. Lastly, Mari’s tweet about Captain Holt from Brooklyn 99 walking around South Orange is awesome.

Overall, people seemed excited to take part in the scavenger hunt, even if they were not from Seton Hall, and wanted to share their thoughts. Challenges only emerged when it came to getting more information about the person, like their age or major.

Crowdsourcing: Helpful or Detrimental?

Crowdsourcing is one of the most efficient ways of collecting data in modern times. Earlier generations would have to take comments from the audience by mail, but with all of the technology today, social media has become one of the best ways to get information and stories. From a journalist or public relations standpoint, it makes a lot of sense to use social media to their advantage.

It can be dangerous to use crowdsourcing without checking the facts first. In an article from FIPP, an example was given about crowdsourcing during the Boston Marathon bombing, where men were falsely identified as suspects due to misinformation on Reddit.

But, when crowdsourcing is used correctly, and can not only enhance a story, but do it timely. It is important that when you are crowdsourcing to give credit to the original sources. From a PR standpoint, it also makes sense for a company to be able to communicate and gain information on what the audience would like to see more or less of. Crowdsourcing from social media can also be informative about a much larger amount of people than something like a survey.

Overall, crowdsourcing when done correctly can only help.

Social Media Takes on Traditional Media

Generations Y and Z have grown up alongside the boom of technology and social media. Now, with these generations entering the workplace, social media has given traditional media a run for its money. Social media cannot entirely replace traditional media, but in journalism and public relations, it is important to be able to use both.

Though social media began on computers, when smartphones were created it offered a newer and easier way to connect with friends. Though the first smartphone was invented in 1992, social media did not become available on smartphones until 2006. Social media has already had so many platforms, for example, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Some platforms, such as Vine, have already died. The platforms that are still thriving have changed the way the world receives their news. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2020, 81% of Americans own a smartphone. The Apple News App and Twitter send out notifications if they believe there is some important news you may have missed. It would not make sense for them to go out and buy a newspaper with the latest when they can receive it immediately on their handheld device.

The beauty of social media, especially from a crisis PR standpoint, is the ability to communicate quickly and effectively to your audiences. It also aids in being able to speak directly to your audience, and this is helping different areas of public relations emerge. The social media aspect of any workplace is always going to be interesting because it is constantly changing.