02/20/2012 11:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Starbucks -- 3 Twitter Best Practices

Twitter can help your business get closer to its customers... create better word of mouth and greater brand advocacy... and generate great ideas from engaged fans. How? Start by learning from the best practices used by companies that have been successful with Twitter.

Start by learning from Starbucks. When a national brand accumulates nearly two million followers on Twitter, its social media strategies are worth examining. The Seattle-based coffee giant is currently ranked as the fourth most popular corporate brand in this space. (By way of comparison, General Motors has 48,000 Twitter followers.)

The Starbucks tweetstream is impressive. Check out these three easy-to-emulate Twitter best practices. Each can be adapted to any industry, and each is modeled consistently via the company's Twitter account, @Starbucks -- which I found to be deeply personalized to individual questions, complaints and suggestions from customers.

Best Practice #1: Do Something You Know Your Customer Believes In. Starbucks uses Twitter to promote cause-driven promotions that resonate powerfully with its user base. One particularly successful example was a "promotion where customers received free coffee if they brought in a reusable mug." This promotion grew their online fan base by 21 percent outside of the U.S. and by 6 percent overall. It not only drove sales, it changed how people purchased and consumed their coffee." What causes do your customers believe in?

Best Practice #2: Ask for Pictures. Starbucks uses Twitter to post plenty of interesting, user-generated images of its followers drinking from, displaying or generally having fun with something that bears the familiar green company logo. Circulating these images means more engagement, greater advocacy, and broader brand awareness. How easy is it for a customer to take and forward a picture of your brand image? What would happen if you tweeted those images?

Best Practice #3: Let Customers Know That You Are Using Their Ideas. Starbucks uses Twitter to update individual customers on the status of individual ideas they have submitted via @MyStarbucksIdea. Wouldn't you follow a company that kept you up to date about that?

If you haven't given your company's Twitter account regular attention (as in, original posts at least once a day, and prompt personal responses to each customer post), take a closer look at this infographic.

Ernan Roman is President of the marketing consultancy, Ernan Roman Direct Marketing.
Recognized as the industry pioneer who created three transformational methodologies: Integrated Direct Marketing, Opt-In Marketing, and Voice of Customer Relationship Research.

Ernan was recently inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame.

Clients include Microsoft, NBC Universal, Disney, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

2010-12-08-ernan.jpgErnan was named to "B to B's Who's Who" as one of the "100 most influential people" in Business Marketing by Crain's B to B Magazine.

His fourth and latest book on marketing best practices is titled: Voice of the Customer Marketing: A Proven 5-Step Process to Create Customers Who Care, Spend, and Stay.

Ernan is also the co-author of 'Opt-In Marketing: Increase Sales Exponentially with Consensual Marketing' and author of 'Integrated Direct Marketing: The Cutting Edge Strategy for Synchronizing Advertising, Direct Mail, Telemarketing and Field Sales.l