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Social Media Effectiveness in Engaging Consumers


Customers’ engagement on social media plays a vital role in building strong customer relationships and customer brand loyalty. Today, more customers shop online and use social media to collect information about a product and make a purchase later. Many customers use social media to connect with the brand and become part of the community of like-minded people. Besides, social media is a source of information about discounts and news related to products. The use of scientific research allows marketers to establish mutually beneficial relationships with customers more successfully. The marketers engage consumers through social media using various marketing strategies and methods that impact customers’ psychological variables and influence their purchase decisions. This paper aims to present how Starbucks Company is engaging consumers through social media and analyze its strategies’ effectiveness.

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Psychological Variables Used to Engage Customers through Social Media

Marketers use psychological influences to engage consumers through social media and influence their buying behavior. Personality, attitudes, and motivation variables are often used in advertising campaigns. According to Solomon (2017), personality is “a unique psychological makeup and how it consistently influences the way a person responds to his or her environment” (p. 242). In other words, personality refers to the person’s original profile or outfit that reflects their consistent responses to external stimuli. Farid and Mazhar (2018) say that personality can be measured through five traits: openness, contentiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The mentioned traits are widely known as the OCEAN model. Solomon’s suggestion is interesting since he perceives peoples’ personalities as something that can change during their lifetime and depends on circumstances. On the other hand, the personality traits approach simplifies categorization, which may be useful in marketing.

Solomon (2017) defines attitude as a “lasting, general evaluation of people (including oneself), objects, advertisements, or issues” (p. 285). Woo and Kim (2019) note that attitudes can moderate consumers’ behavior and influence individual perceived values. Solomon (2017) refers to the lasting and general nature of attitudes since, in his opinion, people form attitudes during their lifetime and cherish them much. It is because attitudes allow individuals to survive through developing views regarding their surroundings.

Then, Solomon (2017) emphasizes that personality variables can be analyzed using the Freudian Personality Theory. The famous psychologists found out that personality consists of a childish ID, parental Superego, and adult Ego. The ID reflects people’s unconscious emotional desires and temptations, Superego stands for consciousness and awareness, and Ego personifies the adult part of the personality. Noteworthy, Ego tries to make bridges between ID and Superego by finding ways to indulge oneself in socially approved activities, choices, and decisions. Therefore, marketers can appeal to these three parts to help the consumer reach a balance point by performing the desired buying behavior.

Solomon (2017) presents a Functional Theory of Attitudes developed by Daniel Katz, describing four primary functions of people’s attitudes: utilitarian, value-expressive, ego-defensive, and knowledge. The theory implies that attitudes are functional and are developed to serve a person. Therefore, attitudes are formed under the pressure of particular needs, and some of them – because they provide pleasure or pain. Utilitarian function relates to the pleasure or pain principle; values-expressive is about self-concept, central values, and the activity performed to develop a social identity; ego-defensive function serves for attitudes formed to protect the individual from external threats and inner feelings. The knowledge function helps satisfy the need for observing rules and order and finding new meanings. Hence, marketers can utilize the Functional Theory of Attitudes to engage consumers through social media by proposing their product- or service-based functional decisions for everyday situations.

Here is an example of a Starbucks Facebook page to illustrate the presented variables. The first example appeals to the personality variable. The post reads: “Introducing the creamy-dreamy Pistachio Latte. Welcome the New Year with something new. [US + Canada]”. The second example is a line of new Christmas flavors: “The more, the merrier. Peppermint Mocha, Caramel Brulée Latte, and Toasted White Chocolate Mocha.” The third example appeals to attitude variable, showing gratitude to people who serve in the armed forces. It says: “Today on Armed Forces Day, we honor men and women who serve their communities and our country, especially in challenging times. We are grateful for you and your selfless acts of service. Thank you.”

Applying Freudian Theory, Starbucks appeals to the ID part of personality by creating the most tempting favor to attract the consumer. Starbucks consistently maintains an atmosphere of social acceptance by appeasing customers’ Superego and allowing the Ego to satisfy ID demands painlessly. The first and second examples also demonstrate how Starbucks applies the Functional Theory of Attitudes to engage customers. The marketer masterfully realizes the utilitarian function, merely showing the robust pleasure waiting for their clients. The third example shows how Starbucks appeals to the attitudes variable through the values-expressive function.

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Social Media Impact on Consumers’ Decision-Making Process

Solomon (2017) says that the consumer decision-making process consists of “three buckets,” representing cognitive, habitual, and affective forces driving the decision. Cognitive decisions are deliberate, rational, and sequential, habitual decisions are behavioral, unconscious, and automatic, and effective decisions are emotional and instantaneous. Sudha and Sheena (2017) state that consumer decisions are influenced by cultural, social, personal, and psychological measurements. Cultural measurement includes culture, sub-culture, and social class and has the most influence. The personal measurement consists of age, stage of the life cycle, economic situation, lifestyle, personality, and self-concept; psychological measurement includes motivation, perception, learning, belief, and attitudes.

Engaging consumers through social media can have a controversial effect on the decision-making process. Since technology requires some rationality, most consumers will be inclined to view their purchases more rationally. However, many social media pages place posts and ads that barely appeal to customers’ emotions, tempting them to make instantaneous decisions. This approach can confuse buyers and have the opposite effect on making a buying decision. Referring to the examples above, the marketer probably makes a mistake by appealing primarily to the shopper’s emotional side. Most of the posts about new beverages present a colorful photo of the drink and describe its great taste. Some posts refer to the values-expressive attitudes function, such as when Starbucks congratulates shoppers on Mother’s Day, Teacher’s Day, Armed Forces Day, or shows gratitude to the nurses for their work during the pandemic.

Notably, all posts have a follow-up response, although some have more comments than others. Typically, marketers know why people love to spend time on social media and target these reasons to gain high KPIs. KPIs are favorable responses, likes, and shares. For example, the January 5th Pistachio Latte post received 3.1K likes, 1.2K comments, and 262 shares. In the comments, users mainly discussed the richness and uniqueness of the new taste and the pleasure they got from drinking the beverage. People who tasted the latte made recommendations to new customers, increasing the likelihood of a purchase.

For example, LC wrote, “I tried this today the pistachio latte with coconut milk, no whip cream. It was so good, not too sweet yet is such a velvety smooth texture so yummy!! Be getting this again.” Then, an AV user wrote, “Trying tomorrow morning! Since my pumpkin cream cold brew has exited the building.” User KT wrote “Had this today with pistachio cream cold foam. AMAZING”, and user LS said, “Had this today. My husband is going to love it because it has flavor but isn’t as sweet as most of the other drinks (which he says are too “sugary” for his taste buds). Can taste the coffee more and had a nutty taste.”

The post about the new Christmas drinks got 25K likes, 6.1K comments, and 2.1K shares. SEN user wrote, “I do peppermint white mocha every year,” BVT user said, “I hope Eggnog Lattes are available too? They’re my favorite!” JA said, “Got my Iced Caramel Brulée Latte in a cup,” and LG wrote, “I love your Christmassy cups! Is Egg Nog back yet?”. These responses, like most others, are overwhelmingly positive and indicate a successful ad. Customers’ follow-up confirms that the post accompanied buyers at all stages of the decision-making process: need recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase, and post-purchase evaluation of alternatives.

Diffusion of Innovation through Social Media

Social media is a handy tool for introducing new products. Therefore, it helps to engage customers in the ‘diffusion of innovation.’ The latest post on Starbucks ’ Facebook page is promoting the new drink – Pistachio Latte. The marketer appealed to causes why people spend time on social media to engage consumers to buy the product. These reasons include sharing information with others, convenience, entertainment, passing time, interpersonal relations, bonding, social capital, and promoting oneself. The presented example targeted all the listed purposes and generated strong positive customer feedback.

Although the definition of innovation implies that it is a new product or service, most innovations are modifications of existing products aimed to position the product and ‘shake’ the customers. The presented example – a coffee latte with Pistachio taste – is a modification, not a new concept. However, previously Starbucks presented new ideas, including summer cold drinks made from mango and dragon fruit. The marketer was also selling the modified copied innovation – coconut milk with flavors. This product is ‘copied’ since it is new for Starbucks but well-known throughout the world.

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As a rule, the diffusion of innovation process has four main elements – the innovation, communication channels, the time during which the market segment accepts the innovation, and the social system. In the example presented, the Pistachio latte is an innovation that was promoted through social media communication channels. It took a short time to be accepted by the market segment – subscribers of Starbucks ‘ Facebook page. According to Solomon (2017), the adoption of innovation consists of awareness, information search, evaluation, trial, and adoption stages. In the context of decision-making, adoption can probably imply accepting the product at emotional, rational, and habitual levels. On a rational plan, adoption may involve a decision on a series of subsequent purchases. Then, in the context of habitual decision making, adoption will involve the inclusion of a product in the list of routine, habitual purchases. On an emotional level, adoption will imply the emergence of a strong liking for the product.

Noteworthy, Solomon (2017) divides consumers into innovators (2.5%), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%), and laggards (16%). Most users who visit the Starbucks brand page on Facebook and leave comments are customers who express their liking for new products. Some users express dissatisfaction with the closure of cafes due to the pandemic and share suggestions, such as mentioning closed restaurants in the application. Other users wonder how long a new product will last or when a previous newbie will return to the menu. Starbucks offers a highly effective engaging experience to consumers through social media to promote the ‘diffusion of innovation’ or adoption of new products. One can observe buyers’ distinct language behavior in comments. Some of them are early adopters and early majority, and others are the late majority and laggards. The process of exchanging views, which is possible only on social media, contributes to buyers’ successful passage through the stages of awareness, information search, evaluation, trial, and final adoption.

The process of adopting a new product, the Pistachio latte, should be evaluated in terms of the four elements – innovation, channels, time, and social system. Noteworthy, the diffusion of the Pistachio latte innovative product took only two days. The post was published on January 5, and by January 7 it gathered substantive 3.1K likes, 1.2K comments, and 262 shares. The success was since Starbucks had previously promised to introduce the innovative product on the menu. Social media has proven to be an effective communication channel since they allow sharing of information and opinions.

Understanding Social and Cultural Influences

Social and cultural influences are important for engaging consumers through social media. On the one hand, Goran et al. (2017) say that “culture is the most significant self-reported barrier to digital effectiveness” (p. 2). On the other hand, Solomon (2017) speaks of global consumer culture that unites people worldwide who prefer branded products and services. Cultural differences are formed under the influence of various forms of learning cultural values. Learning can be formal, informal, and technical; it also occurs through enculturation, acculturation, educational institutions, religious institutions, and media content and marketing efforts. Then, cultural values may be distinct in different countries, subcultures, and cross cultures. According to Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions, cultural values differ in six categories: power distance index, individualism versus collectivism, masculinity versus femininity, uncertainty avoidance index, long-term versus short-term orientation, and indulgence versus restraint (Bhasin 2020).

Two posts on the Starbucks Facebook page deserve particular attention in this context. The first ad supports the value of cultural diversity, which is characteristic of the US urban population. The ad says: “In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we asked three of our partners (employees): How do you celebrate who you are?” Then three Starbucks employees share their experiences of cherishing their heritage. Another post emphasizes traditional American values and says: “Happy Mother’s Day.”

According to Karkhanis (2019), subcultures can be formed based on social class, age, gender, and geographical location. Age often determines buying behavior and includes four categories – babies, youth, middle-aged, and elderly. Other scientists divide generations based on purchasing power and purchasing intent – Generation Z (teenagers), Generation Y (middle-twenties and middle thirties), Generation X (middle-forties), Baby-Boomers (middle-fifties and middle-sixties), and Older Consumers (middle-seventies and middle-eighties). The first example is targeted at customers of all ages from urban regions since it presents cross-cultural values and global consumer culture values. The second example is also age-neutral to cover the whole market segment.

Noteworthy, both examples show high KPIs: the cross-cultural ad gained 2.9K likes, 269 comments, and 279 shares. The low level of comments can be explained by the personal nature of an advertisement. The Mom’s Day ad was even more popular and gathered 12K likes, 441 comments, and 590 shares. Many likes can be explained by the fact that family values are a critical element of US culture.

Starbucks uses several marketing strategies on social media, such as relationship marketing, Internet marketing, and diversity marketing. The first strategy is highly effective across cultures and subcultures. It focuses on enhancing the existing relationships with customers to improve customer loyalty, and all cultures are based on relationships. Relationship strategy is also effective due to the product’s peculiarities since most people associate visiting a cafe with communication, building relationships, and making acquaintances. Therefore, Starbucks is a moderator that helps consumers to meet their communication needs. In terms of Internet marketing, Starbucks takes advantage of social media technical benefits, such as likes, comments, and shares opportunities. Further, a diversity marketing strategy implies that social media ads are repeated in brick-and-mortar cafes.

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Therefore, Starbucks presents an effective practice of engaging customers from different cultures through social media. Contacting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is a good move, as evidenced by the high KPIs. This post engages consumers to communicate and discuss cultural diversity and strengthens customer relationships. The second example demonstrates the successful application of knowledge about the US traditional cultural values. It allows people to rally around them, which also helps to strengthen and develop customer relationships with each other and with the marketer, who acts as a moderator.


Thus, the paper presented features of engaging consumers through social media using Starbucks ’ page on Facebook. The psychological variables that the marketers use to engage consumers, namely personality and attitude variables, were analyzed. Freudian Personality Theory and Functional Attitudes Theory were used for the analysis. Further, the impact of engaging consumers was evaluated in terms of the decision-making process. It was found that Starbucks appealed to cognitive, habitual, and affective forces driving consumers’ decisions. After that, the process of diffusion of innovation or adoption of a new product was explored. The adoption was analyzed in terms of its four main elements – innovation, channels, time, and social system. The viewers’ reaction to innovation was estimated by applying these elements. Finally, the paper presented the process of engaging consumers in terms of cultural and social influences. It was determined that cross-cultural values and traditional cultural values were effectively referred to in Starbucks’ posts on social media.

Reference List

Bhasin, H. (2020) Hofstede’s cultural dimensions – six dimensions of culture. Web.

Bruwer, J. and Rueger-Muck, E. (2019) ‘Wine tourism and hedonic experience: A motivation-based experiential view,’ Tourism and Hospitality Research, 19(4), pp.488-502.

Goran, J., LaBerge, L., and Srinivasan, R. (2017) ‘Culture for a digital age,’ McKinsey Quarterly, 3, pp.56-67.

Farid, D.S. and Ali, M. (2018) ‘Effects of personality on impulsive buying behavior: Evidence from a developing country,’ Marketing and Branding Research, 5(1), pp. 31-43.

Karkhanis, S. (2019) ‘The influence of culture on consumer behavior,’ Advance and Innovative Research, 6(1), p. 31-33.

Solomon, M.R., White, K., Dahl, D.W., Zaichkowsky, J.L. and Polegato, R. (2017) Consumer behavior: Buying, having, and being. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Sudha, M. and Sheena, K. (2017) ‘Impact of influencers in consumer decision process: The fashion industry,’ SCMS Journal of Indian Management, 14(3), pp.14-30.

Woo, E. and Kim, Y.G. (2019) ‘Consumer attitudes and buying behavior for green food products,’ British Food Journal, 121(2), pp. 320-332.

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