Daily Insights

Starbucks Brew-tiful New Beginning

By: Alizah Asif Farooqi | Jan 23, 2019

Despite getting in quite a bit of hot water last year, Starbucks is back with a bang. The coffee company has finally rolled out delivery service in the US. The brand has been doing a lot more than just prepping for its big delivery launch, though. Here’s what Starbucks has been doing to stay hot in the hearts (and cups) of coffee drinkers everywhere.

No stranger to social media, Starbucks boasts the highest follower count and the most total interactions per post, according to Gartner L2’s latest insight report on restaurants. Thanks partly to frequent UGC, the brand also builds buzz and drives customers to stores by launching seasonal and limited-time drinks on Instagram. Notably, the coffee giant released the Unicorn Frappuccino in 2017, which is still Starbucks’ most liked post to date. It is followed closely by posts that either embody a holiday theme or have a vibrant color scheme, promoting offers for short periods of time (or “while supplies last,” as Starbucks writes in its Instagram posts).

Despite Starbucks’ stated plans to scale back limited-time drinks due to their inability to lead sustained growth, these very drinks drive the most Instagram engagement for the brand, which continued to release them throughout 2018. Interactions with Starbucks’ Instagram account taper out between product launches, with the themed drinks garnering significant video views and press for the brand. For example, the Crystal Ball Frappuccino launch had more than 1 million views, 260 articles written about it, 1,700 Twitter influencer shares and more than 102,000 Facebook interactions in March alone.

Similar to pop-up shops, the ephemeral nature and vibrant aesthetic of these new products make for highly engaging Instagram posts. Other restaurants can learn from this model and some have even outperformed Starbucks. For example, in late October Burger King launched the Nightmare King sandwich, a green burger that the restaurant’s Instagram post claimed would incite nightmares. This launch was Burger King’s most engaging post in October, earning almost 60,000 likes. While the brand’s post did not include a hashtag, fans used #NightmareKing in almost 2,000 Instagram posts about the green burger. Burger King was fortunate that fans united around a hashtag despite the brand forgoing one.

For brands looking to induce excitement, Instagram is an easy place to start. In executing campaigns such as Starbucks’ successful seasonal drink launches, restaurants need to enable their growth with both timely releases and hashtag campaigns. If Starbucks’ new service becomes successful, it’s these very hashtags and releases that might entice users to share their orders on social media.