(c) Michael Spencer

Starbucks Cleared 10 Million-Fan Mark on Facebook

About a year ago, Starbucks overtook Coca-Cola as the most popular corporate brand on Facebook, with its page drawing 3.7 million fans. Now the coffee brewery has become the first brand to hit the 10 million-fan mark on Facebook.

The nearest rivals, Coke and Skittles, are both trailing behind at about 6.5 million fans.

To put Starbucks’ success in perspective, the company is quite close to catching up to pop icon

Lady Gaga in Facebook fans, who has about 10.4 million fans, according to data compiled by the Inside Facebook blog. Only other celebrities like Michael Jackson and Vin Diesel, some games (“Texas Hold’em Poker,” “Mafia Wars”), “Family Guy,” Facebook, and the President of the United States, stand ahead of Starbucks in the number of Facebook fans.

The success of Starbucks is based on social media as a key part of the marketing mix, with a steady stream of promotions and heavy advertising on Facebook, to drive traffic to the fan page. Special offers, coupons and discounts distributed via Facebook seem to be the drawing power of Starbucks’ page on the social network.

Just to name a few promotions:

  • Last July, fans were allowed to print out coupons for complimentary confections with a beverage purchase. In just one week of the Free Pastry Day promo, the page added 200,000 fans.
  • The launch of branded ice cream was also promoted by offering coupons for free pints through its Facebook application.
  • More recently, Starbucks used Facebook to run a “Taste Challenge” tied to the rollout of its VIA instant coffee. Participants were offered a free brewed coffee on their next visit and a $1 off a VIA purchase.

Starbucks’ success with drawing attention to product promotions on Facebook seems to validate the results of Razorfish’s FEED 2009 study last year. Among the findings was that traditional direct marketing methods. like offering discounts and deals, are the keys to building engagement on social networking sites.

Starbucks’ strategy to add something to the conversational aspect of social marketing included posts on their Wall and into fans’ news feeds, whether content, questions or updates aimed at stimulating discussion around the brand. Additionally they invested in advertising in Engagement Ads on Facebooks’ home page to drive traffic to its page. However, the activities on Facebook are only a part of a broader commitment to social media, that includes the MyStarbucksIdea site for requesting and implementing customer suggestions, as well as a push onto popular social location based services like Foursquare and Brightkite.

What dou you think of Starbucks’ strategy? Is using “old” direct marketing mechanisms such as coupons the new paradigm for a succesfull social media strategy?

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