Apple Gets More Serious About Using Twitter, but Why it Doesn’t Matter

Apple, the company behind aesthetically pleasing hardware that keeps fanboys drooling, has recently joined Twitter. If you take a look at any one of their four accounts, you’ll notice one thing: they’re not using Twitter to converse but to broadcast. Effectively, they’re porting their press release information to the wide open, and perhaps going a little more granular by featuring content specific to elements of iTunes.

itunesmusicsmallFirst, I’m going to say kudos to Apple for trying involve themselves in the world of social media. I’m going to stop there, though. Unfortunately, they still don’t quite “get it.” Let’s envision this scenario: a user has a support issue about an Apple product. If it was a Comcast product, you’d get a near immediate response from Frank Eliason, the company’s Director of Digital Care. Apple has no such protocol in place, and at this point, there is no engagement. If you used Twitter to direct a complaint to iTunes, if and only if they bother to monitor and respond to their replies, they would send you to their faceless and non-responsive customer support channel.

I don’t expect Apple to port their customer service wholly over to Twitter, but Apple does little in terms of customer service issues altogether. They have discussion forums that are visited by moderators who merely police the content itself, but change never comes from suggestions offered in the forum itself or in the posts, even if hundreds of users contribute the same identical observations. Members are encouraged by other members (not moderators, and certainly not Apple) to submit product feedback, though if you take a look at that page, there are a lot of items. And once you’ve sent the email off, that’s all. No acknowledgment. In fact, of the many issues I’ve submitted over the years (and I know countless others have had problems with as well), nothing has been addressed. It makes me wonder if I’m sending my requests to a wall (or for your tech geeks, /dev/null) or if people really work for Apple (outside their marketing and engineering departments).

Apple’s approach toward using Twitter is likely motivated by a desire to connect with their customers. But connecting should be a two-way street. Social media is exactly that: “social.” At this point, it might as well be that these iTunes accounts are managed and maintained by interns who have no power to effectuate change. Yet listening is incredibly important. It can help boost your “ratings” among the crowd, turning a casual fanboy into a die-hard fanboy. It can turn a prospective buyer into a customer. It can instill faith that your customers have in your company. If not for your customers, you’d be nowhere, right?

If you’re going to dive in the social media world, you need to understand what it means to be “social.” That is, to promote your customers and not just your own agenda. Empower them. At the minimum, let them know that they are being heard (and yes, bring their concerns to those who actually can do something).

If you’re a company looking to dive into social media, you should be doing more than just broadcasting and taking advantage of your followers. Show them why you deserve to be followed by letting them voice their concerns — and by taking those back to the people who really can make a difference. Don’t wait until there’s a PR firestorm before you actually take action, Phil Schiller. Be proactive and not reactive. (To that end, the fact that apps are killing music is still an issue voiced by many of your customers on the proper channels — your forums and via the feedback portal — but yet you refuse to acknowledge the issue. Perhaps a PR firestorm is what is needed to get Apple to fix that problem. I’m sure there are other similar concerns.) Clearly, it seems that Apple responds when it needs to put out fires despite wanting to make its customers happy. And that’s never a good business practice to follow.

If you’re considering social media marketing for your business, no matter what size your company is, listening and engagement is key. Letting your customers know that they matter is priceless. Being human isn’t such a difficult task. If you need help at a bank and speak to the teller but the teller remains silent, is that good business practice? Is that even professional?

Think about redoing your Twitter strategy if all you plan on doing is broadcasting. I’m sure that if iTunes actually included the customer in its feed, and if other Apple departments followed suit, there would be a whole lot more followers and satisfied customers. It can make all the difference in nurturing a positive perception of your company.

Tamar Weinberg is a hustler and juggler. She is the VP of Marketing at Ruxly Creative, a creative marketing agency. She's the Director of Sales at Internet Marketing Ninjas, a 100+ employee search engine marketing agency located in upstate New York. She also rocks global sales at financial media publication Wall St. Cheat Sheet. Finally, she is the Chief Strategy Officer of Small Business Trends. Oh wait, and she's also the community manager at Namecheap. Yeah, like a boss.

19 Comments

  • October 22, 2009

    Glen Allsopp

    As you’ve touched upon, I don’t really think their accounts are there to engage but to simply broadcast. Yet, most of their followers will be happy with that.

    I’m surprised a company as big as Apple don’t have their own ‘version of Frank’ though but I think it’s only a matter of time before that changes.

    Keep well, Tamar!

  • October 22, 2009

    Tamar Weinberg

    Yup Glen – some companies will be happy to broadcast. That’s fine, but they lose sight of the fact that this is social media. Interactions are key. :)

  • October 22, 2009

    Barry Schwartz

    Yes, I agree with Glenn. Them broadcasting, like many companies do, although not the best use of Twitter, is what many of Apple’s followers would be happy with.

  • October 23, 2009

    Dror Zaifman

    Frankly Tamar I believe this is the same type of policy that is rooted within Apple’s culture.

    They talk about how customer service friendly they are and what they will do if you have a problem with them but when push comes to shove I found that they don’t really care about the customer when it comes to servicing them.

    Had many issues with my Apple Ipod and they seem to just have the attitude “You bought it, your headache.”
    Look at their policy about servicing you from the get go.

    If you don’t buy the extended warranty it costs you just to call and try to get help. Never heard of that at any other company.

    Apple is never about the customer but their own bottom line and not begin engaged with the customers about issues through social media shows this even further.

    If they truly cared about what the customer’s concerns are and what the customers are saying they would engage them in every way possible including social media to make sure they are happy.

  • October 23, 2009

    Edward Philipp

    Apple is a substantial company so people expect mature action in every area. However, there are four steps to Twitter acceptance. Apple is just in the first stip and may move beyond. Lets hope that some two way communication start here and moves to other areas.

    Edward Philipp

    (See The Twitter Revolution by Micek and Whitfield for info on the ideas in book form.)

  • October 26, 2009

    Johnny

    I’m pretty sure it is Apple’s established policy to wait for PR firestorms before reacting, remember the iPOD battery replacement uprising?

    Apple doesn’t seemingly need customer satisfaction to keep the fan boys happy; They’re probably smart to save money on support and pump it into the marketing budget.

  • October 26, 2009

    Tamar Weinberg

    Johnny – maybe. But I don’t consider it smart to try to convert new buyers. What about keeping their current customers happy?

    I’m going to ask Apple to buy me a Zune. I think Microsoft would be more receptive to user feedback. :)

  • October 28, 2009

    Hal Lublin

    Great article – Apple has the opportunity to create a meaningful online experience for and relationship with the consumer, but this seems to fall into another act by the company that wants to keep everyone behind the red velvet rope until they decide to share.

  • November 9, 2009

    Robert Phillips

    It is not only Apple but, each and every corporate giant are looking to use twitter to interact with their customers and provide them good quality service in online. Since, almost more than half of the internet users are using twitter so it can also market their products and services through ad campaigns in twitter. With the advent of social media entire scenario of customer care and marketing has changed.

  • November 9, 2009

    2Go Media

    So apple joined the social scene, sounds good specially for tech freaks like me.

  • November 18, 2009

    Nick Stamoulis

    Everyone chooses a different style when it comes to Twitter. Apple can probably choose to broadcast all they want and most likely people will still follow them without any complaint.

  • November 25, 2009

    Kai A. Wolf

    I am here absolutely the same opinion as Dror Zaifman

  • November 26, 2009

    Laura Chapman

    @Stamoulis Sad but true.
    I would prefer a much more DELL approach which kinda combines various attitudes: broadcasting, marketing, 2-way-communication etc.

    Laura Chapman
    wadja.com

  • November 27, 2009

    Miltski

    If I’m not mistaken Apple is once again try to dominate the market via social media sites. Not only that, They are making to outsmart other provider of the same nature of services. As we all know twitter is the best applicable business effective campaign today.

  • December 1, 2009

    Louis Halpern

    Brands should engage with their audience. But Apple is the brand everybody wants to be like so it is always worth having a look at what they’re doing.

    They weren’t first to the market with an MP3 player or a computer and yet have managed to define the sectors. Let’s see what happens with their social media communications.

  • December 1, 2009

    Tamar Weinberg

    Well Louis, it’s a month later and nothing has happened. Apple’s success lies in its physical designs — its offline approach. I don’t think its virtual presence will be innovative or successful.

  • December 9, 2009

    guillermo

    it amazes me that Apple still is unidirectional on Twitter. I thought that would change. As you said Tamar, the twitter guys may be not empowered. I’ve seen this on Microsoft’s PR depts.

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