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Who really won the check-in Olympics?

So you thought that the Olympics were over? Well you were right — but there is no end to Olympic-themed analysis, especially by companies all over London who had a lot riding on many foreigners making their way through their doors during the 2012 London Olympic Games.

So if like me you are incredibly skeptical about the actual value that “checking in” can bring; then you might need to think through your objections and open up a bit to the location-based social phenomenon!

Picture it. London. 2012. (I might be showing my age with the Sophia from Golden Girls like intro there!) Moving on; there are two large and competing coffee retailers in and around London. These are Starbucks and Costa Coffee and during the Olympic Games these two coffee giants were pitted against each other in an all-out caffeine driven war!

Social Bakers in the UK tracked each brands Facebook activity as well as Facebook check-ins during the Games. It initial step however was to get a baseline of an average month’s check-in activity for each brand; so it took 27 June – 13 July; the same period one month prior to the games.

From the graph above Starbucks has a far more stable rate of check-ins; but the Costa Coffee check-ins average a far higher average and is far less stable.

During the Olympics
Admittedly Starbucks had a bit of a head start with eight times as many stores in central London as Costa Coffee (248 stores versus 30); and its stores are also conveniently located a lot closer to the Olympic stadiums; but there was a significant way in which each brand engaged with their audience on Facebook during the games.

Facebook decided to go the emotional route and show some highly emotive and patriotic imagery.

While Costa Coffee opened its Olympic social campaign with the following update:

Costa Coffee

As you can see the Costa Coffee post generated 104 likes, 158 comments and one share while the image of the London Eye and the Union Jack garnered 5 899 likes; 98 comments and 214 shares for Starbucks. This proves once again that pictures are an excellent way to get your audience to engage your brand.

So let’s have a look at how check-ins at each brand’s stores compared during the Games:

Now before I have a barrage of comments saying that this is not a fair comparison; let me assure you that it is. The size of the 2 Facebook communities are quite comparable with Starbucks having 877 000 fans and costa Coffee has 698 000 fans.

Social Bakers then went a step further and analysed which Olympic events were responsible for the increased levels of check-ins at Starbucks :

So who won?

Lessons, lessons, lessons
So what can we learn from this? Well the lesson is not as cut and dried as “social activity drive check-ins”. It is more along the lines of integration and understanding your audience will drive more people to your store!

See, what Starbucks did right is that it understood the driving force that is bigger than “just” the Olympic Games; it is not that the Games themselves are less important, but rather that the themes of patriotism and emotion are far more universal! It then associated its brand with these themes in the best was possible – through images. Images that can convey all the emotion that a few simple words simply cannot do. Its audience immediately resonated with the association and shared and commented, making them feel a part of the experience.

This increased conversation — supported by the Starbucks brand — will have kept them top of mind with their audience and that would have led to increased foot traffic through their doors – the vast majority of whom clearly are avid users of Facebook Check-In!

Author | Jonathan Houston

Jonathan Houston
Jonathan Houston is passionate about digital marketing and digital strategy. During the day, Jonathan is the Head of Digital Marketing for HKLM. Jonathan's work at HKLM includes strategy conceptualization, focusing on the alignment of digital marketing to business strategy as well as assisting HKLM's clients on fulfilling their digital... More

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