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.
First, 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.