Starbucks, Microsoft target social media

21 October 2009

SEATTLE: Starbucks, the US coffee house chain, and Microsoft, the IT giant, are both seeking to utilise a number of social media tools to connect with consumers and gain an insight into the preferences of their customers.

A recent study by the Altimeter Group argued that Starbucks and Dell were among the brands from Interbrand's Top 100 global rankings that are making the best use of social media at present.

Earlier this month, an analysis of the online "buzz" received by this same group of brands found that Google, Microsoft and Apple generated the highest levels of electronic word-of-mouth in September.

Starbucks has sought to develop a wide range of initiatives, working across a number of different portals, as it seeks to take advantage of the opportunities provided by this emerging channel.

These have included establishing its own service, MyStarBucksIdeas - allowing web users and its staff to make suggestions to the company - and running a Free Pastry Day and ice cream giveaway on Facebook.

Indeed, the Seattle-based firm's page on Facebook is among the most popular on the social network, with more than 4.5 million "fans" at present.

Chris Bruzzo, vice president of brand, content and online at Starbucks, said that adapting to the demands of these types of service required moving beyond traditional conceptions of marketing.

"If you approach it as a marketing channel you can only go so far," argued Bruzzo, one of six specialist members of staff at the coffee house chain.

"If you approach it as a customer relationship and as a multi-faceted human connection between Starbucks and customers, then we can have more than a conversation about products - it can be a customer-insight channel and we can learn things from them."

Microsoft employed a mixture of blogs and social media properties to promote the launch of Bing, its re-branded "decision engine", in June.

Research carried out by the company revealed that as many as 5% of consumers discovered information about the introduction of Bing through these sorts of sites.

Each week, it also adds a new question to Twitter, and gives away a free T-shirt to every member of the social messaging utility who responds with the appropriate "hashtag" before their reply.

Overall, Microsoft operates 50 accounts on the popular microblogging service, both official and unofficial, as well as 20 pages on Facebook for its various products.

Gayle Troberman, Microsoft's general manager of advertising and customer engagement, said social media offers a "deep, highly engaged audience who actively wants to hear your message."

With regard to strategy, there are certain key areas to focus on, she continued, including honesty and authenticity, as well as attempting to respond to users as quickly as possible.

"There's sort of a new reality in advertising that we pay attention to. In the social sphere, the immediacy of reaction and response is different," said Troberman.

"You see when you put yourself out there in the media, or free media, sphere, it's not just about what you're saying, it's about what people are seeing and what they say in response."

As such, interaction is an essential ingredient to successfully communicating via these tools, separating them from most form

Data sourced from Seattle PI; additional content by Warc staff