Starbucks brews up a social media storm

4th November 2010 by Flagship Consulting

FT columnist Lucy Kellaway argued recently that Starbucks shouldn’t try to answer all customer complaints aired on Twitter – http://tinyurl.com/26drj8b. Flagship’s Lewis Shields agrees and says this highlights the need for a social media strategy.

The UK head of Starbucks’ use of Twitter to respond to an indirect complaint (‘Twitter is no way to manage a smelly mess’, 5 September 2010) demonstrates the importance of companies having a well thought through online communications strategy for both their brand and employees.

No company can or should be committed to responding to indirect complaints online; however monitoring a brand’s online reputation is a necessary part of running a business in 2010.

Brands can use their managers online as authoritative and engaging spokespeople but, as in real life, it is not their role to respond to the complaints of individual customers. The presence of these spokespeople demonstrates willingness by both them and the brand to engage with the online community, which will build brand advocates and enhance reputation. However, time is the resource being consumed, so it is up to the spokesperson to decide which conversations are worth engaging with.

Ms. Kellaway’s example is just one of many instances of brands and senior management taking ill-advised steps into online public relations. A thorough online communications strategy, as one would have for traditional communications, could have avoided this faux pas.

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