Social Media Manipulators

In Chapters 4-6 of Ben Shield’s Social Media Management, he discusses effective use of social media through branding, content design, and distribution. As a marketing major, I have begun to pay more attention to the way brands market their messages and am fascinated by the way they can manipulate the mind to think a certain way about their products. Many brands are so sneaky in their social media efforts, that many users may not even realize they were being marketed to. Below are a few instances that made me stop and appreciate how genius some brands can be in designing and distributing their content.


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We all have those friends who we can count on to share their caramel mocha low-fat latte on Snapchat when their name is spelled wrong (admit it, we’ve all done it too). I used to think that Starbucks was just trying to be funny with their butchering of simple names, but recently read an article explaining their motive behind their misspelling: marketing! Starbucks was smart enough to realize that if they spelled Katie as “Kaytee” or Jessica as “Gessika”, these consumers would snap a picture of their cup and post it for all their friends to see. While these consumers may have thought they were embarrassing Starbucks for the mistake, they were really falling into Starbucks’ intended trap; of course these consumers are going to post a picture of their misspelled names, which in turn publicizes the brand to each consumer’s social networks. We learned in Chapter 6 that this use of other audiences’ networks is considered Shared Media, which Shields considers the most valuable. Starbucks receives free advertising for their products, as Shields states: “…followers are spreading your message to their followers without you having to pay for that exposure” (147). Thanks to Starbucks, now I know I’ve been misspelling Madeline, Phoebe, and Penelope my entire life:

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Starbucks also effectively channels their audience with their recent “White Cup Contest”, launched in 2014. This contest was more than just a way for users to submit and showcase their creative artwork- it was another viral marketing strategy! Starbucks was able to gather a ton of designs for their cups, while also receiving publicity as users shared their own work on their social platforms. We read in Chapter 4 that a brand is “a name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors” (page 89). Unlike other coffee shops that always use a standard cup, Starbucks used this campaign to define and differentiate their brand as one devoted and interested in customers’ lives.


A second brand that is quite sneaky in their social media strategy is Coca-Cola with their “Share a Coke” campaign. While I’m sure they expected this to happen, it was still an extremely successful way to encourage consumers to post their Coke products on social platforms. Consumers would find their own name and post a picture in excitement, or tag a friend whose name they found. Before this campaign, it was probably less likely that consumers would post a standard picture of a Coke product on their social accounts. In chapter 4, Shields explains one reason this strategy was so successful in social media:”If an organization has a brand with strong loyalty, when it says something in social media, the message will stand a better chance to break through” (page 90). Because Coca-Cola is such a well-known brand, consumers are more inclined to post about Coke and pay attention to posts containing information about the drink.



Both Starbucks and Coca-Cola exemplify the power of social media strategy, content, and distribution that Ben Shields discusses in this week’s readings. Social media continues to grow as one of the most powerful methods of communication. Consumers are already on social media, so why not meet them where they already are? As we read this week and discussed at our symposium, the type of content is highly dependent on the platform. Companies like Starbucks and Coca-Cola understand their audience and developed campaigns that were very visual-based and likely to be shared on all platforms that incorporate images (almost all of them). It is interesting, after learning about these social media tactics, to recognize the efforts of brands as I browse my own social platforms each day. What other brands have you noticed that sneak powerful messaging into social media?


Shields, Ben Ryan. Social Media Management: Persuasion in Networked Culture. New York: Oxford UP, 2016. Print.


2 thoughts on “Social Media Manipulators

  1. Great post! I also recently read an article about why Starbucks misspelled names on their cups, which is a brilliant strategy to garner innocent attention. Social media is very personal, so by having products with consumers’ names written on them, they are more likely to be shared. Also, with Coke’s campaign, witty people created interesting memes with the Coke cans to say funny things. Even more free PR for them!



  2. The Starbucks marketing strategy is very impressive and out of the box. I thought the misspelled names meant that the company should hire new employees that can spell! This marketing campaign reminded me on the Kraft Mac and Cheese ingredient change and how their marketing team followed the Brand Personality Exercise in chapter 4 of Shields. The company changed the ingredients in the beloved mac and cheese box and no one noticed. Their new social media marketing needed a new voice, behavior, and design. The design and the behavior stayed the same since people are die hard fans of Kraft but the voice was changed. The voice of “Didn’t notice the change” became the theme of the marketing, creating hashtags of #didntnotice. This hashtag allowed the company to communicate using social media to their fans that the company is devoted and interested in the welfare of their consumers. It is pretty interesting how a new marketing using social media can connect the company and improve their image during a drastic change of their product


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