Starbucks Cotton Candy

What Community Managers Can Learn From a Recent Starbucks Facebook Post

Created in 1995, the Starbucks Frappuccino is one of the company’s most popular beverages (that’s right, the Frappuccino is almost 20 years old). In fact, it’s so popular it has its very own Page on Facebook with over 10 million fans. Recently, the Page posted a fun off-the-menu recommendation for its fans. The Post garnered a hugely successful engagement rate, but also brought to light an apparent internal communication snafu that resulted in some seemingly frustrated baristas voicing dismay on the brand’s Page. Here’s what happened.

The Facebook Post

One of the benefits of being a fan of a brand on Facebook is that it provides you with content you can’t get anywhere else. In this instance, the Page offered a fun tip for its fans: add a shot (or three) of raspberry syrup to the Vanilla Bean Frappuccino for a little #cottoncandy treat.

As far as I’m concerned, anything with a five-figure Like count is impressive. This post received almost 170,000. Not too shabby.

Starbucks Frappuccino Cotton Candy

The post was also shared by Starbucks garnering another 35,000+ Likes.

Starbucks Cotton Candy Frappuccino

Although the posts performed very well from a social standpoint, there were two notable issues.

Two Issues: One Small, One Big

Apparently the similarities between the drink and the sugary treat end at the color. A few people commented that the drink didn’t actually taste like cotton candy, but I don’t really see that as a major issue. Besides, vanilla and raspberry sounds delicious. Why wouldn’t you want to try that?

The bigger issue, interestingly enough, doesn’t have to do with the fans (well, sort of). You may have noticed from reading the comments that baristas were not very happy about this Facebook post.

Dozens of baristas took to the Page to express their displeasure. According to commenters, when customers requested a Cotton Candy Frappuccino, some baristas had no idea what they were talking about, which they say resulted in long waits and disappointed patrons.

It’s important to note that at no point did this Post instruct fans to ask for a “Cotton Candy Frappuccino.” All the brand did was suggest that they try a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino with a shot (or three) of raspberry syrup.

The fans confused the imagery and #cottoncandy hashtag with a name for an actual beverage. In hindsight, that probably was a little confusing.

What Can You Learn?

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, but here are a few suggestions for how the post may have been done differently (or may be attempted differently later on):

Consider the Entire Fan-Base

Large retail brands likely have two distinct audiences within their social following: customers and employees. A heads-up memo to the brick and mortar locations, a nod to your barista in the copy (e.g., Be sure to help your baristas out. This is drink is so secret, even they don’t know about it!), etc. could potentially alleviate in-store confusion.

Choose Hashtags Wisely

As they should be, Brands are taking advantage of this newly released Facebook functionality; however, double check to make sure the hashtag and the content align. In this instance, the hashtag seemed to insinuate a hidden Frappucino flavor. I appreciate the visual similarities between the Raspberry Vanilla Bean Frappucino and a bundle of cotton candy, and the image is successfully eye-catching, but perhaps a visual nod to raspberry ice cream would’ve been more accurate with the hashtag.

Sometimes it can be easy to forget just how much of an impact social can have on the real world. Social media marketing has the potential to produce quick results, which is part of the appeal, but it’s also important to consider which business assets may be affected and make sure everyone is kept up-to-speed. This is no easy task, which is why it’s crucial to have a holistic social media marketing strategy that makes sure every aspect of your business is in sync.

What steps do you take to make sure your social strategy is aligned with your real-world strategy?

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