At Starbucks, says Stephanie Bittner, director of brand advertising and communications, one of the most potent forms for gleaning insight is through a non-Starbucks-authorized blog set up by baristas for baristas where they talk about their jobs, the company, the products, and the problems.
"Over 50 percent of our employees are college students, so they're in the blogosphere," she said.
Starbucks also follows the general consumer dialogue on blogs to see how people are talking about the company and whether certain corporate initiatives, such as cause-related marketing, are making it out to the public. More than 30 groups are online devoted to the brand. Starbucks officials draw the line at active participation.
The company has also been able to use customer feedback to adjust marketing programs. Bittner says the content of the remaining installments of a four-part podcast was altered based on negative feedback that came in on the first one.
Bittner spoke on a panel at the OMMA Conference earlier this week.