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Creating Social Buzz: What Will Be the Next #PumpkinSpiceLatte?

Leigh Cesanek

September 13, 2016
Leigh Cesanek

I’ve been hearing questions around the office recently asking things like, “How do we make this go viral?” and “How can we create more momentum around this story?” We’ve been strategizing how to make our campaigns buzz-worthy and what we can do to make them take off.

A recent article from AdWeek discussed how Starbucks created an incredible hype for its seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte drink, which debuted on menus last Tuesday. Over the 13 years since the special fall latte’s launch, it gained overwhelming popularity for its taste and seasonality.

In recent years, the company leveraged the popularity of this drink to its social media platforms in a way that is so effective it has users sharing original content for the drink. Starbucks capitalized on the social chatter by encouraging followers to share original content on platforms they use regularly leading up to the launch of the drink by promoting the product across social platforms.

The brand created a product-specific Instagram handle, @TheRealPSL, and Facebook Messenger bot to not only promote the launch of the drink, but to act as a resource for questions related to the drink. Users could chat with the bot on Facebook Messenger, which allowed Starbucks to characterize the product that has now become a fall staple.

The stats from the social media analytics company, Spredfast, show just how much social buzz was created. According to the company, users sent out 5,076 tweets per minute last Wednesday. Comparatively, the previous number of tweets sent out a specific time was 2,855. Starbucks’s product, “pumpkin spice latte” and its hashtag #PSL, was tweeted a total of 56.8 million times.

Not only is Starbucks a case study with Pumpkin Spice Lattes alone, but the company also garnered more than 11,000 tweets with its #pinkdrinks over the summer, according to AdWeek. The company has become a leader in creating buzz around a product in a way that is original, not too promotional, and that engages its audience effectively.

Here are some questions to consider when trying to create social buzz:

  1. Who am I trying to target?
  2. What social platforms does my audience use?
  3. How do they use it? How do they interact with content?
  4. What interests them?
  5. What content, specifically branded content, are they likely to share?
  6. What incentives do they react to?

Starbucks created a social contest over the summer encouraging users to share their photos of the drink using the hashtag #pinkdrinks on Instagram for the chance to be reposted by the brand.

#PinkDrink by Starbucks

The brand tuned into exactly what its audience wanted. Starbucks gave its audience a contest with an incentive on the platform that they love.  The product was visually appealing and its seasonal offering created buzz.

At Princeton Partners, we’ve had our own buzz-worthy news as of late, with our start-up Activity Works partnering with Michele Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative. We hope to use companies like Starbucks as a model for launching this momentum into something truly viral.

It takes a moment such as that to catch the attention of the public, but it takes strategy to harness that potential into something truly impactful.