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1 April 2010

Starbucks Twitter Campaign - When the enemy hijacks your social media campaign


It's exactly what happened to Starbucks in the summer of 2009. Activist, Robert Greenwald, who tried to raise awareness about Starbucks policies on employee unions, spotted a perfect moment to take over Starbucks Twitter campaign.

I came across this news when I was researching for my own social media campaign and it struck me when I read about this ‘hijacking’. Maybe it will sound na├»ve but I didn’t think people actually do such things. I thought maybe sabotaging the campaign, but not taking control over it.


Starbucks came up with a competition where people in major cities in USA had to take pictures of themselves in front of company’s new advertisements. The first person to post photo online via Twitter with #Sturbucks in the title was to be a winner.


When Greenwald read about the competition in the morning paper, he quickly saw the opportunity to use the campaign against the coffee producer. He actually organised people to take their pictures in front of Starbucks shops with negative statements about the corporation. Same day he also managed to put together a short video about company abusing employees’ rights.


Social media although seem fit nicely within PR practice are also taking away control public relations professionals had while dealing with their campaigns. Starbucks’ Twitter campaign is just one of the examples where new media became tricky for PR practitioners.

And what did Greenwald say about social media in this matter?:
“Well it says that democracy is a wonderful thing, and that we should be very happy with it. I think that the corporations will learn very quickly that if they want to function in a social marketing arena, then they’re going to have to change some of their practices or else they’ll have to get out.”

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