Business Social Media

How Starbucks Grew To Be The Most Popular Brand On Twitter

We all start from something small and grow. Adults were once babies. Dogs were once puppies. Monster trucks were once parts on a desk. And Starbucks was once a small coffee shop down by Pike Place market in Seattle. Things have changed for Starbucks since then, to say the least!

One of the ways that Starbucks has also grown is their Twitter marketing presence. They have gone from zero followers, just like everyone else, to now be the most followed brand on Twitter. They have over 11.7 million followers right now, and they work to keep growing all the time! I’ll look at how they’ve grown so that you can learn a little bit about growing your own Twitter marketing account.

In the beginning…


Just like that lone store down by Pike Place Market, Starbucks started out humbly back in November of 2006 when they joined. This was their genesis, their first tweet, in August of 2008:

Not much to it! They scored very few retweets and likes for such a huge brand, but we all, like Drake, start from the bottom. Their second tweet was a better reflection of those beginning times:


Only two likes!

What sort of content were they tweeting out? Back then, Twitter was a much simpler social platform than it is now. You could really only send out text and links.

First, their very next tweet was this one. They had discovered the power of Twitter, and just how big of an audience they had on it:


That was their third tweet. Between this tweet and their first they received many, many messages from Twitter users who just wanted to see what they had to say. That’s what Twitter is really all about: Seeing what’s on the minds of people and brands.

How did they build their Twitter account? What’s the secret to their early success? There is no secret. There was just the hard work of responding to fans as often and sincerely as possible. You’ll find dozens of tweets like this one from those early times:

The community manager and the community having some back and forth, answering questions, addressing concerns. This is the ‘face to virtual face’ time you need to put in to truly grow any Twitter account. Starbucks knew this from the start, and it’s a large part of why they’re still so successful now.

Twitter grows up with images, Starbucks grows too


Twitter spent many years without images. Now they’re used nearly as often as text. When photos were finally allowed on Twitter it opened up all-new marketing avenues. For their first photo on Twitter, Starbucks decided to do something interesting:

Yep, they showed off some of the good work they do, in this case with a charitable fashion fund with the goal of helping young, American fashion designers. They didn’t go the selfish route and immediately jump into showing their products as so many other brands did. They stayed social, they stayed true to their roots, and they made their account a relevant space for discussion.

Better yet, they included a link to a blog post which gave even more information about what they were doing. This type of layered content builds a brand story with several chapters. Your fans have the chance to engage with your brand’s story deeper if they choose, or just learn the surface information from the tweet. It’s up to them, but you provide the opportunity for deeper engagement.

What Starbucks is doing now that they’re the most followed


Starbucks have grown up completely. Not only do they have the highly successful @Starbucks account which started it all, but they also have many other accounts in different markets:




Those are just six of over twenty five officially verified Starbucks accounts. Having all of these accounts allows them to reach an even deeper understanding with their audience. You may also think that the Starbucks Canada and the Starbucks UK accounts just tweet the same thing, since they are both in English, but you’d be wrong. Here’s are tweets from the same day from those two accounts:


They operate independently, and have their own content which is made to appeal to their specific audience. Starbucks gets exceptional market penetration from this, and every account filters back up to the main one.

They also have a bit of fun now and then with mascot accounts:


Sadly, the Pumpkin Spice Latte account is only active when the latte in question is in stores. Which should be ALL THE TIME…

Starbucks also have hashtag marketing campaigns going on. #NowBrewing is what they use to push new coffee blends:


The general pattern is the main account will tweet it out once, then all of the smaller ones will tweet out their own custom content with the hashtag as well. This is great for building a brand story which connects with their audience in direct ways thanks to the personalized content.

While not every brand out there has the resources to build individual accounts for different sections of their audience, they all can do one very wise thing: They can create a support account! These accounts are great for taking complaints and negativity away from your main account:

Starbucks Customer Support, only 140 characters away! If you’re thinking of opening a second account for your brand, make sure it’s a support account.

How Starbucks became the most popular brand


Behind all of the fancy pictures, the contests, the precise marketing language, and all the rest there’s one simple truth: Starbucks became the most popular brand on Twitter through consistent hard work. They have responded to fans, dozens of them every day, and taken the time to create engaging custom content for different markets.

Your Twitter account can grow using the same tactics. Respond to retweets, respond to direct comments, and find conversations to join. In addition to that, use hashtags in a manner which builds your brand story. All of these things are what makes any of the most followed Twitter accounts successful.

At the end of it, all of the marketing speak in the world will not take you where you want to be on Twitter if you don’t act socially and speak with other Twitter users. Imagine that: Social media marketing success starts with being social!


Author BIO:

Ernest is the social media critic, writer, analyst and curmudgeon over on his website: You can find him there every Wednesday with a brand new post about social media marketing, and watch out for new posts from other contributors!

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