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Starbucks vs. Twitter

November 24, 2008

So my post about Twitter is generating a fair amount of commentary from readers.  The general tone appears to be that while one shouldn’t Twitter just to generate additional business, it’s still worth doing for a variety of reasons, such as being Web 2.0 savvy, being in-touch with non-client business associates, and personal pleasure.

Here’s a followup question:

Is it better for your business as a realtor to spend 10 hours a week at your local Starbucks, or 10 hours a week Twittering?

On a percentage of the population basis, it seems that Starbucks can safely claim 8% of Americans as at least a once-weekly customer, and as high as 22% of Americans if you include the “occasional” visitor.  That’s compared to the maximum of 6% of Americans that Forrester Research claimed use Twitter (and which people dispute).

Of course, you can Twitter at Starbucks, killing two birds with one stone. 🙂

But the following would be a great experiment for someone to conduct.

Spend a month Twittering 10 hours a week (2 hours a day).  Count # of leads, transactions, and $$ earned as a result from that month of Twittering.

Then spend a month hanging out at the local Starbucks 10 hours a week (2 hours a day), with a sign that says, “Local Expert” or “Realtor” or whatever on your laptop, your bag, your jacket, whatever.  Get into conversations.  Count # of leads, transactions, and $$ earned as a result from hanging out at Starbucks.

Let us know the result?


10 Comments leave one →
  1. November 24, 2008 3:26 pm

    I vote for twittering at Starbucks. Clearly, you will generate more business at Starbucks, but I wouldn’t recommend a sign that says Realtor on your laptop, someone might just pour hot coffee on it! 🙂

  2. November 24, 2008 5:56 pm

    Rob, the next time you’re in Starbucks, try these experiments:
    – tap the shoulder of the person in front of you and ask them if you can follow them and then
    – stand in the middle of starbucks and shout out what you’re currently doing … “I’m here getting a cup of coffee”

    Let me know how much business that generates for you. Actually I’m willing to bet that a Realtor could live in a Starbucks and never see a single good opportunity to demonstrate their expertise. Now you could go down to Starbucks with a t-shirt saying “worlds best realtor” on the front and “great time to buy” on the back but somehow I doubt that would work well.

    If you really do think that hanging out in Starbucks is the bigger marketing opportunity you are placing too much emphasis on reach and not enough on engagement. IMO, reach is no longer the best metric to for evaluating marketing tactics – engagement is the new holy grail and permission marketing is less about finding your customers than it is about making it easy for them to find you (“which Starbucks did you say you work out of again?.”)

    Besides, who ever said that going to Starbucks and using twitter are mutually exclusive?

  3. November 24, 2008 6:06 pm

    More thoughts on this (it’s a fascinating scenario) …

    The Realtor who sits in Starbucks with a sign is sending a not-so subtle message that they have nothing better to do. Once I’ve seen that same Realtor twice at my favorite Starbucks I will have concluded that they have no clients i.e. their marketing is telling me that they don’t know their job.

    One of the reasons I love social media is that it’s the perfect anti-marketing. If you just blog or tweet what you do in the normal course of your day, all of a sudden your marketing message reinforces the fact that you know what you’re doing without it looking like marketing. That expertise attracts trust. And trust earns you the permission to sell.

  4. November 24, 2008 9:26 pm

    David makes a valid point re starbucks that equally applies to Twitter.

    David writes: “- stand in the middle of starbucks and shout out what you’re currently doing … “I’m here getting a cup of coffee”Let me know how much business that generates for you.”

    Many people on Twitter fire off countless inane tweets like “I am in starbucks getting coffee”

    I’ll ask the same question- Spend 2 hrs a day letting people know you are getting coffe and you are sending an equally poor message – I don’t have much to do, I have attention deficient disorder and can’t engage in tasks without twitting about it.

    Telling your “followers what you are doing 24/7 probably doesn’t establish you as a local expert and may cause a client to think you are going to tweet your entire experience with them as it happens.

    Its how you use twitter and what you do in starbucks or anywhere elese that will determine how you are preceived, not what medium you use.

  5. November 24, 2008 9:33 pm

    A business Latte. I agree with Ginger, Twitter at Starbucks and get your butt out of the office for any computer work that doesn’t require a printer. Searches, blogging, writing offers, email updating clients, follow-up showings, etc. Especially if you have a big sticker on your flipped open notebook, “The Real Estate Savant Is In. And the 2nd highest impact activity, sipping at Starbucks or anywhere, anytime, get on the phone and have some convo with people who like you and trust you…great things will happen. The 1st highest? Person to In-Person conversation.

    My 25cents.

  6. November 25, 2008 12:00 am

    Redfin used to hold court at a Starbucks in each of our markets once or twice a month attracting a handful of folks each time.

    We’ve replaced that with a home buying class that we hold every three weeks in each of our markets either at our office (if the market has an office big enough) or a local hotel. We’ve had hundreds through our classes and the return has been much better than the non-existent return on our Twittering.

    Granted, we haven’t spent nearly as much time thinking about maximizing our Twitter exposure as we have put into putting on those classes. Because it isn’t simply a matter of Twittering. You need to build a following, you need to get your agents to embrace it and you need to intertwine it with your website/web presence.

    What I think we aspire to is a multi-prong approach where we have a Twitter approach rivaling Zappos while still maintaining a strong offline presence.

  7. November 26, 2008 12:01 pm

    @David –

    The Realtor who sits in Starbucks with a sign is sending a not-so subtle message that they have nothing better to do. Once I’ve seen that same Realtor twice at my favorite Starbucks I will have concluded that they have no clients i.e. their marketing is telling me that they don’t know their job.

    This is a real question, because I’m somewhat curious.

    Would you rather work with someone who has nothing better to do, or with someone whose calendar is absolutely jammed?

    I find this an interesting side question for service providers. Is it better to be seen as always busy (indicating a level of success) or to be seen as not busy (indicating a higher likelihood of service)?

    Would you rather work with an attorney, or accountant, or realtor for whom you are one of a hundred clients? Or one for whom you are the one and only client?

    Sort of the whole Jerry Maguire scenario, I guess. 🙂


  8. November 29, 2008 6:07 pm

    The question almost seems ridiculous to me. It is a no brainer that the time at Starbucks will be more effective for Realtors than spending their time twittering (although I agree that the best scenario is to twitter at Starbucks…but for arguments sake, I’ll assume your question holds them mutually exclusive). A human connection made face to face is far more effective than a purely digital one. I’m a huge fan of twitter, but twitter didn’t really become relevant to me until I met in person the faces behind some of the people I was following. It takes MUCH more time to build up credibility and trust via twitter than it does in person. Some studies find that communication is something like 93% non-verbal…twitter takes the non-verbal cues out of the communication…makes prospecting more challenging. Starbucks gives you the non-verbal. Real estate is a relationship business. It is way easier to create a relationship in person. Clearly, a Starbucks strategy would be more effective.

  9. January 15, 2009 5:56 pm

    my take: If I’m spending 10 hours a week on twitter as part of a multi-pronged approach using social media marketing to build my business (including sites like that get me a lot of face-to-face interaction), it’s a lot better in my view than sitting in a starbucks. (although you’re quite likely to find me in a starbucks at my computer… or having coffee with someone I met via

    To me, no one social media tool is the solution. Using them together as part of an overall strategy can be HUGELY effective in building the credibility I’ve already established via IRL connections, my blog, facebook, etc. Big picture, I think social media is tremendous, but each site taken in isolation can easily look more like a way to waste time…


  1. twittering from starbucks is simply bril … | The Hotlist

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