Virtual world revolves around your followers

This time last year, blogs and websites concerned with marketing and tech communities were buzzing with excitement as Starbucks stole Coca-Cola’s crown as the most popular brand on Facebook.

At that point, Starbucks boasted 3.6 million members that had registered to be friends with the brand. In June of this year I met Starbucks’ global digital director Alexandra Wheeler for an interview. By then, Starbucks’ Facebook friends numbered 10 million. In the two months since the interview with Alex Wheeler, that number has grown again. The total now nears 13 million.

But crucially, it is not the only online community that Starbucks engages with. The coffee company’s My Starbucks Idea website has encouraged hundreds of thousands of Starbucks customers to suggest ways of improving everything from the products to the retail experience. Online fans discuss the best ideas and add improvements of their own to each one. This element of involvement breeds a feeling of incredible loyalty within the community, and the number of customer-originated ideas that have become a part of the business is now well into the hundreds.

“The number of customer-originated ideas that have become a part of the business is now well into the hundreds”

The Annual, Marketing Week’s new conference on 29 September 2010 www.theannual.co.uk
The Annual, Marketing Week’s new conference on 29 September 2010 www.theannual.co.uk

MaryLou Costa’s cover story on the potency that can be added to brands’ marketing strategies by using open (such as Facebook) and closed online communities lists examples and case studies from a who’s who of great marketers. Coca-Cola, Nike, O2, Philips, Unilever, Virgin Media, Prudential, Kraft, BT and Volvic have all gained great insights out of the real-time dialogue that their purpose-built online communities have provided.

However, if you are a brand manager of a business without the scale, digital savvy or the heritage in crowdsourcing and co-creation of Starbucks, consider this. There are hundreds of ways you can capture a community of your most loyal fans. You don’t have to be a huge multinational, such options are open to the smallest of local businesses.

To learn more about how real-time dialogue with such a group can grow your company’s bottom line as well as your own standing as a marketer, book your place on The Annual now. Our flagship conference on 29 September will feature a session with Brian Waring, vice-president of marketing and category for Starbucks UK and Ireland, who will talk about how Starbucks’ success can be replicated.

After all, surely speaking to your most valuable customers on a daily basis and bringing them into your virtual world can only serve your marketing.

Mark Choueke, editor

For more information or to book your place at the Annual go to www.theannual.co.uk

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