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Starbucks Brews Up Social Network For Customers

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CNBC.com

Is it a sign that social networking has "jumped the shark,"* when a coffee company launches a social networking site? The trend is just that pervasive.

Starbucks launched mystarbucksidea.com, a site for customers to comment on each others ideas, while giving the company concepts about ordering, product tips, and suggestions about the stores.

Clover Coffee Machine
Source: cloverequipment.com
Clover Coffee Machine

To be fair to Starbucks, this is a good way to allow customers to feel like they "play a role in shaping the company's future," to quote Starbucks' press release. And feeling empowered gives customers a sense of loyalty at a time when everyone from Dunkin Donuts to McDonalds is offering Starbucks' bread and butter--those espresso drinks.

This is part of CEO Howard Schultz's plan to bolster the 15,000 store brand. In another play to keep customers true to this particular brand of joe, a new customer loyalty card will offer free coffee refills, drink customization, and free drinks when you buy a pound of beans. Oh, and though it sounds like it's all about the customer experience (which is obviously huge) the company isn't forgetting about the taste of the brew. So starbucks is now using a new machine called "The Clover" to make a better tasting cup of coffee.

In the past Starbucks has looked to entertainment to distinguish its experience, establishing a reputation for playing interesting music, selling CDs, books, even DVDs in-store. I'm wondering if it'll continue investing in its entertainment arm, or if it's focusing entirely on coffee, to the exclusion of its other endeavors.

*Jumped the Shark: A phrase derived from TV series "Happy Days," when the Fonz literally jumps over a shark. An extreme scene to snag viewers and an indication that a show, or trend, has past its prime.

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