On Instagram, lots of #coffee, not a lot of coffee brands

Over the past 100 hours, consumers added over 250,000 new posts on Instagram with the hashtag #coffee. Once you add the dozens of other coffee-related hashtags from #coffeetime to #coffeeaddict, #coffeelife or #coffeeoftheday, the number of new consumer posts edges towards 500,000. In just 100 hours.

And yet… Total posts on Instagram to date featuring category leaders like #Nespresso, #Nescafe or #CostaCoffee add up to just 600,000, 425,000 and 120,000 respectively.

Since consumers like to talk about, picture, and experience coffee on Instagram, why are self-professed “consumer-centric” brands not more serious about the fastest growing (major) social platform?

At the other end of the spectrum, Starbucks is one of the 100 savviest brands on social today. No wonder that there are 20m Instagram posts with #Starbucks, not that far below the number of posts with the word #coffee (34m).

A cross-platform social performance overview shows Starbucks has taken an organic-first, content-led approach to social that Google Trends data suggests, once again, was judicious. Meanwhile, social laggards are setting themselves up for a difficult reckoning.

Global coffee brands cross-platform DNA – past 31 days

  • YouTube and Instagram are growing the fastest by far (100% annualised growth rate), with Nespresso and Nescafe leading the charge on YouTube, and Starbucks’s Frappuccino dominating Instagram
  • Nescafe is investing a lot in Facebook sponsored posts, which makes sense in most emerging markets where Instagram is not yet as developed 
  • Coffee brands/product accounts (including Starbucks’s Frappuccino) total just 600k engagement for the past month (just 15% as much as Starbucks’s US/global account)

Global coffeehouses/chains, past 31 days

  • Backed by a first-rate content strategy, Starbucks gets the most engagement from Instagram (2x more than facebook), and makes smart, tactical use of Twitter
  • Baskin-Robbins is very disappointingly un-social for a US-led brand, while Krispy Kreme’s social profile is healthier than its tasty donuts
  • Other brands are particularly weak and up for a hard landing once they realise what they have been missing out on. UK chains Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero’s dreadful social footprint are especially puzzling given Brits’ fondness for social.

Consistent with eBench findings across consumer categories, social dominance coincides with a widening gap on share of organic searches on Google Trends.

Global share of Google searches: Starbucks is widening the gap while other players have failed to capture the Instagram opportunity (focus on the TREND more than the absolute levels)

Nespresso’s pain is even more obvious in the US market, which will likely translate into slower sales growth as savvy competitors translate social success into greater traffic and loyalty.

Socially sophisticated brands like Starbucks master each of the different foundations of social performance – looking at 3 of the 10 pillars eBench focuses on:

(1) They talk about #topics that consumers get excited by. Don’t talk about #coffee (12% less engaging than other hashtags), but talk about your products like #flatwhite (+24%), flavours like #lemonvanilla (+46%) or simple emojis (+13%) coffee lovers embrace.

Starbucks: 20 most used hashtags ranked by engagement index (last 2 months)

By contrast, Nespresso takes a misguided selfie approach  to hashtag strategy (‘a hashtag with my name in it is a good hashtag”), which explains part of its failure to grow communities organically despite visually strong content. (6 of its 10 most used hashtags contain the word Nespresso)

Top 10 most used Nespresso hashtags, last 2 months

(Dark blue = Facebook, grey = Instagram, light blue = Twitter, red = YouTube)

(2) They master the art of the visual. Different colours work better in different seasons, there are countless tactics used to boost peer to peer sharing. This was its most engaging post in August, can you identify 5 reasons why?

(3) Over time they carefully construct narratives using visuals, symbols and codes that adjust with the season.

Tempting, isn’t it?