Social media represents an instant and efficient way for brands to engage, and have conversations with, their customers.

It also enables the business to keep an eye on potential customer service concerns and complaints, allowing the business to solve issues before they damage the brand.

We took a look at how those online conversation affect the reputations of five of big chain coffee shops – Starbucks, Café Nero, Costa Coffee, Coffee Republic and AMT Coffee – to see which brands were making the most out of social media, and which need an extra shot of something special.

We analysed the brands’ social media reputations by looking at ‘reach’(how many people are talking about it online) and ‘satisfaction’ (whether those conversation were positive or negative) to produce an overall Social Media Reputation (SMR) score out of 100. (To put this into context, the most popular brands such as Apple and Google have SMR scores into the 90s, which is just about as good as it gets.)
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Starbucks leads the five brands scoring just over 74 out of 100. The brand has over 24 million Likes on Facebook, over 2.3 million Facebook check-ins and more than 1.5 million followers on Twitter. It also ranked as 17th in the top 50 brands in social media.

The brand has replicated its global physical reach to its online reach. Initiatives such as giving away coffee in store via a Facebook voucher and the ‘around the world’ tab help to merge (and presumably track the impact of) online promotion to offline sales. But there is an opportunity for Starbucks to promote its ‘localisation’ theme and build a sense of local community to counter negative criticism of flooding local areas.

Café Nero came a distant second in the analysis, with an overall score of 43 out of 100. Café Nero suffers from a very low level of ‘reach’, scoring just 12 out of 100. This is primarily because the brand only created social media accounts in April 2011. It currently has just over 1,330 likes on Facebook. The first two Twitter accounts that come up in search results are a fake account which makes fun of the brand and a place holder account which isn’t used.

The official Twitter account has around 250 followers. The brand doesn’t seem to be very engaged in social media at all.
It does, however, have a high satisfaction score of 76, which seems to be the result of positive press coverage, good customer service and identifying itself with the Jazz music scene. If Café Nero works on its social media presences and distinguishes itself with its quality and independence, the brand’s social media reputation will see the benefit.

Ranking third was Costa Coffee with a social media reputation score of 42 out of 100. The brand has a very poor ‘reach’ score of 10 due to the patchy social media policy the brand seems to have adopted. While it has an impressive Facebook following of over 198k, its Twitter account has one solitary tweet (at the time of writing) and follows nobody (although it still has over 3,000 followers and is listed 58 times).

Again, Costa Coffee’s satisfaction score is high at 72, so if the brand focused on creating a more engaging social media presence there’s potential to improve its social media reputation. With Whitbread saying that it plans to double the number of outlets, a strong social media presence could really help these stores get established. The Facebook page could offer more creative content and provide exclusive offers, which would greatly aid the brand’s social media footprint.

Coffee Republic came a poor fourth in the analysis with a total social media reputation score of 37 out of 100 and a dismal ‘reach’ of 2 out of 100. The brands’ Facebook page has a ‘like’ count in the low 2,000s, and it has no main Twitter account (but accounts exist for individual stores). It does have its own community site, but there doesn’t appear to be any significant incentive to join it, apart from getting some promotional offers and a sneak peak of future menus. The site currently has Twitter and Facebook buttons on it, which link…back to the community site. While it’s a good idea to provide customers with a virtual community, if you restrict conversation to the site, that conversation will have no impact outside of the site itself, and the brand won’t see the benefit.

However, Coffee Republic does have the highest satisfaction score of all of the brands at 79 out of 100, so has the most potential in social media. It works with the Teenage Cancer Trust and donates revenues to the charity whenever it opens a new store – this has generated a lot of positive news coverage for the company. But it remains important for the brand to establish a central voice on Twitter, rather than depend on several accounts run by local stores as it does now.

Finally, AMT Coffee, which had a social media reputation score of 29 out of 100. Yes, the coffee chain has a small presence in the UK, with around 59 stores through the country, but that doesn’t mean its social media presence has to be equally as tiny. ‘Reach’ was a miniscule 0.57 out of 100! Searching for the brand on Facebook brings back many pages with tiny like figures, and no profile pictures. The one page with the most ‘likes’ and that looks the most official is a Facebook group, rather than a page, which has around 280 members. The Twitter account is more active, with around 1,800 tweets and about 1,600 followers, the brand manages to outdo some of its larger competitors.
Satisfaction levels are a middling 60 out of 100. AMT coffee had refused to accept credit or debit card payments because of the time it took to make the purchase in store, but now it uses the new Quick Tap contactless payment technology which may impact satisfaction levels.

AMT Coffee could consider becoming more social by using its airport and rail locations in conjunction with Facebook Places or Foursquare. Customers could be offered free coffee or discounts for travelling the greatest distances between check-ins or becoming the mayor. These kind of initiatives don’t cost a great deal for the business to implement, yet they can add a great deal of enjoyment and value to the customer experience.

Rich Rust is Social Reputation Manager for social media agency, Yomego – www.yomego.com.

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