Differentiation: Battle of the Baristas

54% of the U.S. adult population drinks coffee daily according to the National Coffee Association. With so much competition, investing in social media is a priority for two of the biggest players in coffee – Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks.

Though the majority of Dunkin Donuts are in the northeastern part of the U.S. and Starbucks has a brand that spans the globe. The size of the two brands is evident by looking at this quick side by side social media comparison:


Both brands are highly active on the above mentioned channels as well as others including Pinterest and Instagram. They both do a great job of covering all the social networks but for brevity sake, we will look at their Facebook strategies and how they differentiate.

ImageStarbucks is currently focusing on their charitable efforts on their Facebook page. Their cover photo for the month includes the hashtag #extrashotofgood which seems to be the latest social media campaign. Some of their recent posts promote Global Service Month, featured drinks, latest promotions, stories about their brand and how the coffee is made. Starbucks posts about 4-7 times per week.

The posts don’t seem to be conversational in nature. They are not asking their audience any questions, mainly posting information and stories about the brand. They have included a tab for their Pinterest page which is cool but not very useful on Facebook. It seems to be all about the brand – Here we are making coffee, here we are giving back to the community, etc.


Dunkin Donuts Facebook page is all about the fans. The first thing you see is their cover photo which highlights a “Fan of The Week”. Recent posts show sweepstakes, fill in the blanks, questions to fans, and a bit of humor. Dunkins posts between 1-4 times per day on Facebook. The content is much more localized with posts about the Boston Bruins, New England Patriots, and Boston Celtics. This is interesting because Dunkin Donuts has locations outside of New England, yet their Facebook page is geared heavily towards New England sports. Dunkins also likes to do a cute play on words with their “DDs”.


To test the fan engagement rate of both pages, I looked at a post from each company posted on the same day. Add up the total number of likes, shares, and comments then divided it by the number of fans and multiply by 100. Starbucks post had a 4% Engagement Rate while Dunkin Donuts had a 49% Engagement Rate. What this proves is that though Starbucks has a much larger audience, Dunkin Donuts fans are way more engaged in the brand on Facebook. This can probably be attributed to the fact that their Facebook strategy is more about their fans and they are using Facebook as a platform for conversation. Sometimes in social media quality of content is simply better than quantity of fans.



It is hard to say whether Starbucks social strategy is intentional or a missed opportunity to put their fans at the center of the brand. It is possible that because they are so much larger they have the challenge of keeping content generic. With locations in different countries it is possible for fans to interpret things in different ways. They also have separate brand pages for Starbucks UK and Starbucks Philippines which are localized. This can be confusing to consumers and if not carefully managed, can result in inconsistent brand messaging. These localized pages most likely have different brand manager who are not working together towards the same goals. At a glance I would say that fans have a much higher affinity for the Dunkin Donuts Facebook page.



  1. Thanks for this great comparison and thanks for highlighting the differences. Especially to see the number of followers throughout the different channels is quite impressive.
    When I think of Dunkin Donuts fancy, colorful dough rings come to my mind but not necessarily great coffee taste (it may be it is related to my bad coffee experience I had with DD).
    I think the social media strategy of both companies symbolize their general different approach towards their customers and the environment. The global approach of Starbucks may also put them in the position to have a more holistic approach – coffee under which conditions grown, harvested and processed, food is more are “supplement” to their product range while DD is defined based on their “Oh yummy donut, I want another one”.
    At the end, the good thing is that the customer can decided whether he/she prefers one over the other or likewise.

    • It’s interesting how Starbucks hasn’t taken the opportunity to interact with their consumers via their ever-popular Facebook page. Just think how much interaction and potential new customers they could have if they weren’t just speaking to (or informing) their FB fans instead of providing a venue for two-way conversation. Starbucks is way ahead of Dunkin Donuts in terms of social media presence; however, this is probably due to their exposure (overexposure) in the media. With the huge difference in engagement rates between the two, I’m wondering why Starbucks is still so far ahead in SM venues. We have learned through this course that engagement is essential in SM. I hope Starbucks will take notice and start increasing their customer engagement through their SM. At this point, it doesn’t seem like they should care because they’re still getting the responses they need (having seen the numbers you presented); however, businesses cannot afford to rest on their laurels when it comes to interacting with their consumers. They need to be thinking of their next strategy in order to stay on top.

  2. What a great idea Dunkin Donuts had to provide a “fan of the week” feature onto their Facebook page. Right now the trendy thing to do is to take pictures of what you’re eating or drinking and post it on Facebook or other social media sites. Since millions of people are doing it anyways why not have a contest where people can take pictures of themselves with their product and post it on their page? It was also a good idea to involve New England sports into their page since most Boston residents are die hard sports fans. No wonder the dunkin donuts pages have more fan involvement than Starbucks.

  3. I don’t think my last comment posted so I will just post another one just in case!

    What a great idea Dunkin Donuts had to make a “fan of the week” feature. All over social media sites you see posted pictures of people’s lunches or beverages that they ate that day. So why not incorporate that into a contest? Have people post pictures of themselves with their coffees for the chance to be on a Dunkin Donuts page! Those contest winners will most likely be excited about winning and they’ll probably post a link to the page onto their personal social media sites. More brand exposure for DD! I think another reason why Dunkin Donuts has more fan participation on their sites because DD involves the New England sports teams. Boston has the most die hard sports fans around so of course New Englanders and Bostonians are going to love DD! No wonder Dunkin Donuts has more fan participation than Starbucks. Stahbucks is foh New Yokahs 😉

  4. Wonderful post about two really exciting brands with passionate fans. I think the strategies for both are intentional, and also missed opportunities for both. It would very difficult for Dunkin Donuts to even try and support another team in a different area because of their roots, but i think their america runs on donut campaign has helped. And as for Starbucks, i think the genericness is probably because of their diverse audience, but they could try connect on something else deeper that could engage fans more.

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