At the recent BlogWorld Expo, I discussed two companies that "get" social media and one that doesn’t. The two that get it were Nike and Dell. Nike’s excellent community efforts–especially Nike+–and Dell’s efforts with forums and blogs are helping both companies join online conversations. Both companies are benefiting from either higher sales–40% of Nike+ users end up buying Nike shoes–and better stakeholder relations–Jeff Jarvis just recently wrote a glowing report on Dell for BusinessWeek.
Apple Doesn’t "Get" Social Media
So which company doesn’t get social media? That would be Apple. Apple doesn’t have any explicit efforts to engage its online stakeholders, doesn’t have a blog, and even tries to sue those bloggers that help build the passion for Apple’s products. If the company were Microsoft, it would have died a long time ago.
So, why doesn’t Apple embrace social media? It’s simple: Apple’s customers embrace social media on behalf of the company. Need proof? Write a negative blog post about Apple and see how many Mac-heads come to the company’s defense (UPDATE: Even this post, which is not an attack, but an observation, is bringing out the Apple supporters in droves). It happened just today. A-list blogger Robert Scoble posted about the issues he was having with his Mac computer. Here’s an extract:
I just loaded the latest Apple Macintosh updates.
Now my machine won’t boot. Well, that’s not really true. When I power it up the Apple comes on. Then the screen gets dark and a little message comes up:
“You need to restart your computer. Hold down the Power button for several seconds or press the Restart button.”
So I restart. And get the same message. I do it five times just to make sure.
And so, now I’m back on my Windows machine.
Screw you Apple and your ads saying you’re better than Microsoft. Screw you. Screw you. Screw you.
Sounds very much like the infamous "Dell Hell" rant by Jeff Jarvis, don’t you think?
Apple Won’t Engage
So what, happened? Did Apple realize that its reputation was under fire from one of the most respected tech bloggers on the planet? Did it email Scoble, leave a comment, or call the cell phone number he publishes on his web site? Nope. Instead, Apple relied on the many Apple evangelists to come to its defense. Commenter Wonderplanned came to Scoble’s rescue, not Apple.
Even Scoble notes that Apple couldn’t care less about him…
What’s ironic is lots of other computer companies would LOVE to give me free stuff (I don’t take it) but Apple is the only company that’s never raised a PR finger to help me. Instead I feel so honored to spend my money on this crap. Why? Just to have a shiny machine?
Well, sorry. The shine is wearing off. Screw you Apple.
Apple’s Going Mainstream
So, back to my BlogWorld presentation. I told the audience my theory that Apple would soon need to embrace social media and join the conversation. The reason? Apple is going mainstream. Its products are reaching more people; people that are buying Macs as their first computer.
…Apple/Mac market has changed dramatically in recent years. It’s no longer just a relatively small group of rabid (avid?) Mac users who were more than willing to give Apple the benefit of the doubt because it was trying to be better and push the envelope. If things went wrong, the Mac Nation not only carried on but happily pitched in to help.
As Apple reaches mainstream buyers–and grows its market share–two things will happen.
- It will reach customers that aren’t capable of tinkering and tweaking with their own stuff. Even Scoble didn’t know he could fix his computer by a "start in Safe Boot (press and hold the Shift key at the startup chime)? Starting in Safe Boot forces a directory check, so will verify if there is a problem with your startup disk."
- The Apple evangelists–the ones that have always come to Apple’s defense–will be stretched too thin. They simply can’t jump in to every conversation and defend every forum comment and blog complaint.
How Long Before the Wake-up Call?
So, how long will it take Apple to wake-up and realize that it needs to embrace blogs, forums, social networks, Twitter, et al? They’re not ready yet. Proof of that is that Apple didn’t want to be interviewed for my book–a book about engaging your stakeholders online and managing your reputation!!!
Still, I think the realization isn’t too far away. Apple’s made enough missteps to see that it needs a better plan for building more evangelists and holding conversations with customers. If there’s not an Apple blog, forum, social network of some kind by the end of 2008, I’ll eat my iPod.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Apple’s online conversation engagement. Drop me a comment.
P.S. In anticipation of Apple supporters accusing me of being an Apple hater. Consider this before leaving a comment. I own 4 iPods,a Mac Mini and I have just ordered a Macbook Pro.