Why Starbucks Gets Digital Engagement

What can higher education learn from big brands?

February 8, 2017

Whenever I'm working with university marketing and comms teams this question is always asked: “Can you give us an example of a brand that ‘gets’ social media?”

Every time I'm asked this particular query, I always mention Starbucks. Their use of digital channels for marketing, communications, and engagement has always been impressive.

Whilst some people love Starbucks and some do not, the 45 year-old company's use of social media transcends whether or not you like their coffee.

One of the best things about Starbucks' social media is that they aren't afraid to try new things. For example, in 2014, Starbucks started their Snapchat account. And, they've been using Twitter since 2006!


Another aspect that's quite telling about Starbucks' current strategy towards content creation is the prominence of their 1912 Pike blog on the top-level navigation of starbucks.com.

University news sites could learn a lot from this blog in terms of design, mobile-readiness and user experience. Note that the initial visit to the blog results in the appearance of a beautifully crafted email subscription form. For university news personnel, email is still a massively important aspect of getting the word out about new posts/stories.

Just in case you were wondering, Starbucks does have a separate Twitter account for news releases:


There are more than 65 million citizens of the world recognized as refugees by the United Nations, and we are developing plans to hire 10,000 of them over five years in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks does business.

On their primary Twitter account, Starbucks has a large number of followers (11.8 million!). It's important to mention that they only post one or two tweets per day that are not replies. Starbucks doesn't overwhelm their followers with a stream of posts on Twitter. Instead, they focus on conversations with people who mention them. With nearly 88,000 tweets, that is a lot of digital engagement.

Tactical Tool Selection

Anyone who has ever talked to me about social media knows that I always ask a lot of questions about the "why, how, what, when, and where" of digital channel selection.

At the moment, it's pretty clear that Starbucks is devoting a lot of time to using Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.


Their YouTube channel has more than 45 million views and nearly 127,000 subscribers. As a content distribution channel, YouTube is a major social media asset for Starbucks.

On Instagram, Starbucks boasts a following of 13 million users. Each time they post a new image, they receive hundreds of thousands of likes and several comments.


A photo posted by Starbucks Coffee ☕ (@starbucks) on Jan 19, 2017 at 12:43pm PST


Whilst it's clear that Facebook is important to Starbucks, they don't post very often on their page.

Their Facebook page has 36.5 million page likes and yet they haven't posted anything new since early January. Assuming that they are doing a lot of ads on Facebook, Starbucks will no doubt come back to posting on their page on a regular basis.

LinkedIn may not be the first social network that comes to mind when you think of Starbucks, but they do have a company page with 760,000 followers. It does make sense that Starbucks is on LinkedIn. With 25,000 stores, Starbucks employees a lot of people, including military veterans and refugees. LinkedIn provides employee insights and listings for more than 1,300 jobs at Starbucks.

Finally, this is a question that I've asked a lot of my clients: “Why are you still displaying a logo/link for Google+ on your website?” Starbucks hasn't updated their Google+ account since January of 2016. It's time to take it down.

What brands do you follow that “get” social media?


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