Starbucks Launches New Online/Offline Social Media Campaign

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Starbucks recently launched “the biggest marketing effort it has undertaken,” according to the New York Times. The coffee company is displaying posters in major cities, then challenging people to be the first to find and tweet pictures of the the posters. The NYT has more:

The idea for the Starbucks photo contest came from watching what people already do on Facebook and Twitter, said Chris Bruzzo, vice president for brand, content and online at Starbucks. Each year, people race to post the first photos of Starbucks shops decorated in red for the holidays, he said, and on Flickr, people vie to post photos that include multiple Starbucks stores in the same shot.

Starbucks has other social media initiatives planned for this campaign, including a contest for Starbucks store employees to submit headlines for future ads and YouTube videos with coffee experts talking about Starbucks coffee.

Starbucks says it thinks its campaign will be helped by its 1.5 million fans on Facebook and 183,000 followers on Twitter. On the Saturday before the presidential election, Starbucks sponsored a single 60-second television commercial on “Saturday Night Live” advertising a coffee giveaway on Election Day. Starbucks then posted the video online. By Tuesday, it was the fourth-most-viewed video on YouTube, and people were mentioning Starbucks on Twitter every eight seconds.

Mr. Bruzzo said Starbucks’ social media presence gave it an advantage over competitors with gigantic ad budgets because its fans wanted to talk about it online. “It’s the difference between launching with many millions of dollars versus millions of fans.”

What does the first photo tweeter win? According the Mashable, Starbucks failed to mention that minor detail. I’m also not sure about the poster that says “Beware of a cheaper cup of coffee. It comes with a price.” In a recession, shouldn’t Starbucks be touting its cheaper coffee as still being quality, not defending its more expensive brew?

But those are minor details. The big picture is more positive for Starbucks. Its online/offline integration is a fantastic idea, and one that companies are using more and more. Starbucks’ use of the campaign reflects its ability to keep pace with its customers, which, in turn, bolsters its reputation as a progressive, hip company that cares.