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In this guest post, Vincent Ng, President of MCNG Marketing, explains why Starbucks Pinterest strategy hasn’t been a big hit with fans – and how you can learn from their missteps.

5 Reasons Why Starbucks' Pinterest Strategy is NOT a Big Hit

For 5 years I worked as a Starbucks Manager in two stores in a city that had more Starbucks per capita  than anywhere else in the world. I’ve been drilled about the Starbucks brand by 3 district managers and 1 regional manager. So, I understand their brand intimately.

For me, as a former barista, to see what Starbucks has done with their Pinterest page just makes me want to cry. The lack of marketing strategy and proper engagement is why their Pinterest page is not a big hit.

If we look at the different social media channels that Starbucks is on, we can see that Pinterest is near the bottom in terms of followers. They have a massive following on other social networks. Four million followers on Twitter, 35 million “Likes” on Facebook, and close to 1.5 million followers on Instagram. So why is it that their Pinterest page is still under 100,000?

Here are five reasons why I believe Starbucks isn’t getting good traction on Pinterest, and how your business can avoid these Pinterest mistakes.

1) Starbucks Focuses Too Much on Other People and Not Enough on Their Brand

Okay, I know you’ve probably read a lot of advice about how brands should focus on repinning other people’s content, but this can be overdone. When a brand  has been established for over four decades, and has loyal fans, those fans want to see original content produced by the brand and their fans.

Here’s what their account description says:

“A collection of the images, objects, and ideas that inspire us. These are the things we love – and love to share with you.”

Okay…but as a brand loyalist myself, I want to know what’s the newest drink you’ve come up with or what awesome merchandise  you have that would look amazing in my kitchen, or what new Starbucks coffee invention you came up with.

Here’s where Starbucks screwed it up big time – They shared what inspires them, but what they should focus on is what inspires their fans. This is so important for every business that I will write it again: share what inspires YOUR fans.

Just below is a visual example of one of their boards name, “Espresso.” Out of 20 pins on the board, only 1 was uploaded by Starbucks. The drinks in the picture that are espresso related are not drinks that  most Starbucks baristas can make.

While it’s good to have most of those photos be engaging, the goal should be to show espresso Starbucks drinks that baristas can make, that look enticing, so that it teases customers to buy their drinks next time they pass by a Starbucks.

Why Starbucks has such terrible Pinterest Strategy

Their “Inspiring Spaces” is another board that I don’t get when it comes to their marketing strategy. They have all these beautiful interior spaces as pins, and yet only one of the pins is related to a store in Dubai. I’ve been to a few different Starbucks stores, and many of them have beautiful interiors that will make your jaw drop.

Starbucks Inspiring Spaces board has little to do with their marketing strategy.

With so many stores around the world, Starbucks should be showing off what stores look like in China, Japan, U.K and all over the world to help unite Starbucks fans globally.

Lesson: Have pins that are related to you marketing goals and help with the overall marketing strategy.

2) Starbucks Doesn’t Post Pins That Tell a Great Story

One of the greatest things that you can do with Pinterest is use it to tell a story about your brand.  And Starbucks Facebook has some amazing photos that tell a story or inspire an action, I have to wonder why this isn’t being applied the same way to Pinterest?

Here’s a photo that was shared 4716 times on Facebook, and received 165,000 likes, at the time of writing this post. It’s been over 8 days and the image still has not been posted on Pinterest. This beautiful photo tells the story of someone that truly loves her Starbucks. It’s cute, hip and – for lack of a better word – shareable. It’s a win/win.

This photo wasn't posted onto Starbucks Pinterest page. Even though it was shared over 4700 times on Facebook. Don't make that mistake.

Coffee farmers and community engagement are part of the Starbucks brand. But there are no boards that tell that side of the story.

Wonderful photos of staff, and beautiful pictures of coffee beans made by farmers can do wonders when it comes to telling what the Starbucks brand is about.

Coffee farmer showing off raw coffee beans before being roasted.

Make sure that you have boards that are created to highlight your brand story.

Lesson: Use Pinterest to build a visual story of your brand so that consumers emotionally connect with the brand.

3) Starbucks Uses Names of Boards that are Not Aligned with the Brand Nor are They Search Friendly

I think every brand needs to have a fine balance between naming their boards for branding reasons, and naming their boards for search optimization.

I’m not a big fan of the Starbucks board titled “Real Food.” What is real food anyway? I assumed real food was food that’s all natural, but when I saw a pin that contained blue sprinkles, which are artificially made, I quickly frowned. Is something that’s artificial real?

Be careful when naming your Pinterest boards, you don't to have a brand conflict like Starbucks which has titled a board Real food but have then have a picture of a cookie that's made from artificial ingredients.

Instead they should have named the board, “Delicious Foods.”

This would be better for two reasons
1) It reflects more accurately what the actual board is about.
2) It would help them with search results in Pinterest.

Let me go into point 2 a little bit more. There are people on Pinterest that are searching for boards with the title “Real food” but there are more people that are searching the search term, “Delicious food.”

Since the number of followers a board has plays a huge role in the search optimization of boards for keywords, Starbucks would be at a total advantage to compete for competitive keywords.

Delicious foods wouldn’t take away from their branding, and it’s the type of word that inspires the senses. When someone says real food, you don’t salivate. But the moment someone says delicious, you can guarantee that you’ve got their taste buds’ attention.

Also, NONE of their boards have the word Starbucks in it. I’m not too sure why that is, but that’s bad for Pinterest search engine optimization. If you take a look at the search results for boards on Pinterest for the word Starbucks, none of the boards that come up are theirs. One of the 32 rules suggested by Tailwind regarding a Pinterest marketing strategy, is “Don’t be hard to find.”

Ensure that you name one of your boards with your brand name in it to your customers find you easier on Pinterest.

Lesson: Always balance the name of your boards with your brand and for search results. And ensure that at least some of your boards contain your brand name in them to help customers find you on Pinterest search results.

4) Starbucks Doesn’t Fill in All their Board Descriptions

Ensure that you fill in your board descriptions so that your boards are optimized for search results in Pinterest and other search engines.

I could turn into the Incredible Hulk just thinking about this. I’ve never understand why big brands like Starbucks don’t fill in their board descriptions. It’s not that hard. It only takes a few minutes and there are many advantages to this.

When a board description is filled it helps with search optimization within the Pinterest search engine and for search engines in general. This is a great opportunity to put in some great keywords, and to be able to explain to viewers what the board is about.

Lesson: Fill in your board descriptions with keywords, and never leave them blank.

5) They Don’t Share Pins from Real Fans that Have AMAZING Starbucks Pins

One thing I admire about Starbucks is that that they aren’t hung up on the whole copyright issue with pins, but before you go and do this, it’s always best to double check what your company’s social media policy is.

Starbucks takes photos from websites and content from others to help enhance their Pinterest account. But for some reason they don’t take some of the most interesting pins about Starbucks from fans and share that with their followers.

Here’s one of a kid that’s wearing a Starbucks costume that is so adorable. You can’t tell me that’s not pin worthy of the great Starbucks brand.

The Starbucks tee shirt is great pin, and it’s been repinned 700 times. More than most pins from the official Starbucks Pinterest account. Minions in barista aprons from the movie “Despicable Me”, yep, they’re hot on social media too!

Consider posting pins created by others that highlight your brand in a positive light.

Lesson: Take time to engage with your brand loyalists on Pinterest, and repin some of their stuff. There’s no doubt that other brand loyalists will enjoy those pins too.

Take a look at your brand’s boards and see if you’re making some of the same mistakes that Starbucks is.


Vincent Ng

Vincent Ng is the president and chief blogger at MCNG Marketing, He is the founder of the Pintalysis Marketing Blueprint, and the author of “How to Search Optimize Your Pins for Pinterest and Search Engines“. Follow him on Twitter @VincentNg or on Google+.

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