Starbucks Is Not Good at Twitter, According to Harvard Study

By Mike Pomranz |

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What do you want out of a brand’s Twitter account? Humor? Product news? The company to tweet back at you every time you ask them why they haven’t opened a Red Robin in your neighborhood? (Seriously, @RedRobinBurgers, let’s get on that.)

The people at Harvard Business Review think the most important Twitter trait is empathy. As they explain it, “In our view, empathy consists of three components: reassurance, authenticity and emotional connection. Empathy goes beyond simply solving a problem. It involves making a customer feel valued.” HBR also believes that empathy is quantifiable. They used data analysis to “identify certain patterns of behavior in interactions between companies and their followers, and infer a degree of engagement.”

After looking at more than 300 Twitter accounts of companies listed on the major London and New York stock exchanges, HBR compiled a list of the 50 most (and least) empathetic companies on Twitter.

Out of the top six companies, three were British grocery stores: Sainsbury's, Tesco and Morrisons are all apparently very supportive if you can’t figure out which aisle has the tea and which has the biscuits. Meanwhile, Kraft was the highest-ranking American food business, slotted in at number 14. They probably had their hands full recently with the announcement of a mac and cheese recipe change.

On the other end of the spectrum, Starbucks certainly has a loyal following, but don’t look for any love if you’re following them on Twitter. The coffee brand ranked next to last on the list, number 299. Only pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca was worse.

What made Starbucks sink so low? HBR suggested that accounts such as theirs “might as well be run by robots,” specifically adding, “Starbucks simply redirects queries to an email address—with a grating exclamation point to add insult to injury.” 

But if you want some serious empathy, a faceless computer screen probably isn’t the best place to get it anyway. 

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