Starbucks’ Hijacked Twitter Campaign Could and Should Have Been Prevented

 

Measuring and analyzing sentiment around a brand is becoming an important part of a business’ marketing and PR strategy. As a discipline, it seeks to understand the tone of the conversation occurring online around a business’ product, brand and/or that of its competitors. Using social media monitoring software like Lexalytics, Viralheat or Trendspotter (to name a few), marketers look for the context of social posts, the popularity of specific product-related topics, or the audience’s overall attitude as it relates to the product and brand.

Such programs are often on-going, general search-and-report type programs conducted as part of a market research or brand reputation management service. In other cases, it’s the marketing or customer service departments that are tasked with this job. In an ideal world – and in an ideal corporate structure – every department shares information in real-time and makes data available across business silos seamlessly. Yeah, right.

Back in reality, we know this situation is not common; in fact, it’s most likely the opposite of what’s really occurring. The immediacy of social media content sharing and the consumer’s ability to drive that unedited content across multiple platforms demands a rethink of this organizational failure. At a minimum, businesses must add sentiment analysis to the pre-launch stage of every social media campaign they execute. Why?

Starbucks Customers Hijack Twitter Campaign

A recent Starbucks Twitter campaign asked followers to tweet their holiday cheer on Twitter using the hashtag “#SpreadTheCheer.” A great idea except for the fact that with the 700 locations in the UK, Starbucks is embroiled in a public relations battle based on the news that it paid only 8.6 million pounds in corporate taxes over the last 14 years. With other news reporting that Starbucks in the UK planned to cut paid lunch breaks and maternity leave benefits, the public sentiment around the brand was decidedly poor. The result was a public hijacking of the holiday-cheer #hashtag campaign in protest of its corporate policies.

Not only were these Tweets seen across Twitter , they were amplified on a giant screen over a Starbucks-sponsored ice rink at London’s Natural History museum.

If the marketing team responsible for the execution of the campaign had conducted a standard sentiment analysis check before it launched, they’d have realized the potential risk before it was too late. Of course, that would mean sentiment analysis checks were part of standard pre-launch methodologies for social media campaigns or that the PR team communicates regularly with the marketing team.

<Insert soundtrack of corporate hysterical laughing here>

As much as marketers wish to deny this fact, the business brand is now firmly dictated by the sentiments and opinions shared by the general public and consumers. Social media can provide a stellar platform to amplify positive brand sentiment but it can just as easily – and more likely – disrupt corporate-directed messaging with negative social commentary. Sentiment analysis can no longer be a nice-to-have program or even a PR-specific effort; sentiment analysis must be inserted as a mandatory tactic preceding any social media effort.

Not convinced? Ask the executives as Starbucks in the UK what they think. Still not convinced? Ask the executives at McDonald’s who had their own positive-story Twitter campaign (#McDStories) hijacked by negative consumer commentary. This is not a trend; it’s a reality.

Is it realistic for a marketing team to conduct sentiment analysis before every campaign? Will budgets be made available for such a strategy? Or will businesses continue to take the risk? Join the debate in the comments below.

Sam Fiorella
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego

 

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