Tuesday, March 25, 2008

You want engagement? You can't HANDLE the engagement!

Ericka at E-Commerce Times interviewed me for an article about Starbuck's MyStarbucksIdea site. The basic idea I tried to get across is that this is a great idea, but that if Starbucks doesn't carry it out and act on the ideas their customers give them, it's going to backfire. They are currently on the clock.

It's funny because I was talking with John Moore about this just yesterday, and mentioned that even if this effort falls flat for Starbucks, it's still good to see big 'name' companies like SBUX and Dell using social media, as it gives the entire space credibility. Shel Holtz has also noticed that MyStarbucksIdea seems to mirror Dell's Ideastorm. But notice that Dell's Caroline Dietz read the post and commented, which prompted this comment from John:
Dell gets it. Caroline Dietz, from Dell, reads Shel’s post and provides clarification in the comments. Awesome!

When has Starbucks ever done that?

Wouldn’t it be great if some of the 48 Starbucks employees assigned to engaging Starbucks customers on the MyStarbucksIdea blog would venture out into the blog world and provide clarifying comments like Caroline did AND does for Dell.

Which of course raises another interesting question: What would be more effective for Starbucks, to start the MyStarbucksIdea where 48 Starbucks employees attempt to engage Starbucks customers via the site, or to have those same 48 employees attempt to engage SBUX customers OFF the site, a la Richard Binhammer? I would lean toward having 48 employees reach out to customers online in THEIR space if those 48 did even half as well in engaging and responding to customers as Richard does.

One thing that has changed is that Starbucks is starting to move some of the suggested ideas into the 'Ideas in Action' section, which they say means they are 'considering' the ideas. So they are at least understanding of the fact that they need to let their customers know that they will act on their feedback if at all possible.

Ideally it would be best if Starbucks could quickly implement an idea from the site. And then maybe follow up that with a guest-post from the member that submitted the idea.

It's all about blurring those lines...


Hire Mack!


Jackie Huba said...

I agree with you. I think that Starbucks should have started their social media foray with comments on blogs mentioning the company. They could have built up the credibility of understanding how social media works before launching into the big idea site.

Ryan Karpeles said...

Starbucks certainly dove into this space with a splash, rather than dipping their toes in, but like you said - it does give social media a big boost of credibility.

I think they might have bit off more than they can chew here, but at least their hearts seem to be in the right place.

Also, it's easy for us to sit back and criticize their every move. But you have to applaud their willingness to take a leap. For all we advocate joining this space, I find it hard to bash a major company for doing so (even if they're not treading as lightly as maybe they should).

Mack Collier said...

Jackie I hope companies will start to realize that the best way to get started with social media is to simply monitor and observe. And the best part is, it costs nothing but manpower to do this. But from just observing, a company can gain great insights into how we use these social tools, which will greatly improve their social media efforts down the road.

Ryan you're exactly right, it's a great move for Starbucks to be embracing social media. I think some of us are afraid that they might be putting the cart before the horse by immediately jumping into the deep end of the social media pool instead of dipping their toes in first.

But hey, that's sometimes the best way to learn how to swin, so maybe Starbucks will come out like a champ. I really hope they do.

Lewis said...


As former Starbucks managers, John and I, too, talked about Starbucks efforts. My comment to him was that had I been on the launch committee, what they developed is not what I would have recommended. The site is too unwieldy and no filtering system should have 40-plus pairs of eyes. If asked, I would very much simplify what I see as the process for evaluating the ideas.

Becky Carroll said...

We can spend a lot of time trying to decide if this was a good idea for Starbucks or if they went about it the right way. And yes, I agree that it would have been ideal for them to do more listening and engaging through other mechanisms that already exists.

But I tend to agree with Ryan that we should applaud their desire to put a listening platform into place. When I started the "Re-experiencing Starbucks" project with Jay Ehret, I sent feedback to Starbucks via their website, some good and some not. They responded to the good but ignored the rest. Hopefully on "their turf", they will be open to all ideas!

Rock on, Mack, and keep challenging us!

JohnP@Dell said...

When it comes to taking the social media plunge, I think it's less important to lean one way or another on form. I give Starbuck's a "10" just for diving into the deep end of the pool! They'll make mistakes as all of us do, but they're in the game, way ahead of the pack.

Nathan Snell said...

I agree with Jackie, they certainly took a big step without knowing where their foot will land, or how to position it.

It's good for the online marketing industry that Starbucks made the move, but ultimately, will it be worth anything to the customers? In its current form, no. Hopefully they will evolve it. And that's exactly the problem.

Starbucks, from all we have seen, isn't going OFF site, as you say, Mack. So as far as we know, they don't see the constructive criticism that's being given by you, John Moore, myself, and others.

Sbux is a big company with a lot of stores, so implementation the ideas from the customers on a wide scale is hard. What I wonder if they understand is they only need to prove they're listening to build credibility and trust using the smaller scale. Eg: Show it in one store, and involve the community in it.

It'll be interesting to see how sbux evolves with this.