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How Starbucks used social media to knock down a “free coffee” scam

October 19, 2011

Starbucks this week gave us a good case study in how a company can use social media in times of duress to engage their customers and protect their own reputation in the process.

On Monday, Facebook scammers posted a coupon – purportedly from Starbucks – worth $50 in free coffee for customers in honor of the company’s 40th anniversary.  Those who clicked on the link were prompted to submit their email address and personal information in exchange for the coupon. The link went viral in no time as consumers pounced on the chance for a free latte.

Within minutes, consumers were hitting up Starbucks’ Facebook page and Twitter account with questions about the validity of the promotion.  Here’s an example:

 

 

Here’s how Starbucks responded:

Note that Starbucks responded within an hour of the scam taking off.  That’s because speed is your best shot at containing online content that has gone viral. Note also that the Starbucks message earned more than 26,000 customer engagements.  Consumers want to hear from their favorite brands online – especially when that brand is under duress from online scams, bad press and the like.

The bottom line: Social media is about much, much more than promoting your brand. It’s about educating and protecting your customers – a good way to protect your reputation along the way.

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