Why Apple Doesn’t Need Social Media

Apple has a pretty well-known disdain for social media.

Despite being the one company that, more than any other, raised awareness of podcasting and gave the music industry a kick up the ass with iTunes, Apple is dismissive of social software. The company discourages employee blogging. It sued some of its biggest fans. It shut down online forum posts when people complained about problems with its Leopard operating system.

Jay Moonah mentioned Apple on his (excellent) Media Driving podcast the other day, wondering why brands like Apple and Seth Godin don’t get attacked for not “joining the conversation.”

So… why doesn’t Apple feel the need to engage with other customers? How come it hasn’t descended into Dell hell (and had to dig itself out) yet?

Rabid dogs Because it doesn’t need to. Apple has an army of fans that does the job way better than the company ever could.

Apple focuses on creating a fantastic user experience. Whether it’s the iPod, the Mac or the iPhone, Apple’s strength of design gives an experience that people love.

Sure, they would probably benefit from engaging with customers, listening to what they’re saying and responding like Dell, GM or Comcast. Let’s face it, though, like it or not those companies don’t have the rabid following that Apple does. They need to reach out to convince people.

Apple’s fans do it for them. When your brand is this strong, why take a risk using untried tactics?

Not everyone agrees with me on this. There are plenty of people that wonder if Apple really wants the crazed few defending its reputation and who think the company really needs to engage.

What do you think?

  • I wrote about the same topic, too! http://urltea.com/37o3 Looks like Jay Moonah’s podcast is pretty popular 🙂

    I think the company is already engaging it’s customers, just not as out in the open as everyone else. Sometimes, there’s no need to get rid of the old way.

  • Miyaka

    “wondering why brands like Apple and Seth Godin don’t get attacked for not “joining the conversation.””

    I don’t think that Apple gets “attacked”, criticism is not necessarily an attack. It seems to me that, at times, some social media gurus are critical of Apple’s practices and secrecy.

    On the other hand, there is no denying that Apple is already one of the most talked about companies, the buzz is growing before each Apple event and there is an unending stream of blogs devoted to their products. To increase readership, A-list tech blogs will post anything related to Apple.

    I don’t think that Apple needs to engage its customers, as long as the company has a vision for where it wants to go. A lot of people would like an FM tuner in the iPod, for instance. People kinda want all sort of things, but they won’t necessarily use the new functionalities that often (especially if the implementation is not that great), that’s why so many consumer products are bloated and lack direction. Apple’s products are not designed by committee, there is a strong leadership actually taking responsibility for these decisions. The company is taking calculated risks but is also free to shake things up.

  • Apple also really likes to control the conversation – they don’t like product leaks, and like to announce things at the keynote with a big message, and everyone gets the same one. Despite my personal feeling about a company trying to control its press so tightly – it’s definitely worked wonders for them. The iPhone was a hugely successful launch despite that for several months – people weren’t even allowed to touch it!

  • First of all, it’s gratifying how many people seem to be enjoying the rantings of madman driving through the streets of Toronto. Makes me wonder how many potential podcasts are going unheard but for the want of more mAudios… 😉

    Dave, I’m with you on your assessment as it pertains to Apple. I guess my concern is about brands like Apple and Seth modeling bad behavior. If you have a computer company as a client, doesn’t what Apple does make it harder to recommend that they be involved in the conversation? That’s really where I was coming from.

  • Was just thinking about this this morning as I subscribed to Seth’s Twitter account. 5,191 followers and no following? That’s a lot of people who are opting in to hear what he has to say and potentially becoming ambassadors on his behalf, if they are not already. With Apple, it would be legions more. Seems unconsidered at best.

  • One thing to consider is that social media is kind of like cable news… a really big freaking hole that has to be filled ALL THE TIME. Once you open the floodgates the demand for content ends up being so strong that it can easily end up watering down the message and pushing “broadcasters” toward content they might not otherwise consider. It also stokes demand for them to say something when they’d rather say nothing at all. For a company like Apple — which is successful precisely BECAUSE of its penchant for brand control, that’s a losing proposition.

  • Actually here’s a second thought… the Apple brand is based on the “Apple experience.” You get it with the product, on the web site, and especially in their retail stores. It’s a case study in what builds strong brand — a good product (experience) with a loyal following. What people SAY about the brand pales in comparison to how they EXPERIENCE it. Social media adds nothing to the “Apple experience.” It does however add a hellofalot chatter that has nothing to do with the brand. All in all… lots of potential downside, not much upside.

  • I think that one of the reasons Apple doesn’t need to “join the conversation” is because it doesn’t need to defend itself as much as other companies.
    Dell, if I remember correctly, was plagued by poor customer service and less-than-stellar products.
    There was a reason to complain, and a need for them to respond online.
    I’ve only been an Apple user for a little bit less than a year now, and have only been using one of their computers for 4 months, but I can already see why they don’t feel a need to engage online. They already have people answering the phones online. Their products are good enough that people are willing to speak on behalf of the company.

  • jfouts

    Apple doesn’t need it really, since we users evangelize for them 24/7, but I think it’s a mistake to blatantly ignore the influence of social media. They could fuel the flames on the positive and counter the negative.

    On the other hand, just because they aren’t participating doesn’t mean they aren’t watching…

  • Interesting Dave. In the upcoming Shill Episode 7 (hopefully coming out today), Dave and I touched on this issue as well.

    Apple doesn’t need to generate buzz about their company. Their products do it for them and the fans go nuts, as you have pointed out.

    Any good communicator knows that if you already have significant share of mind within a particular segment, you may not need to spend money convincing them further. Apple will buy into Social Media, if and when they need it. They have far more to lose than gain right now I feel.

    I think it is also worth pointing out that Apple is in my opinion one of the last great brands. A brand that still stands for something and is not diluted. Is it connected to not doing social media? I doubt it, but worth considering nonetheless…

    Look around at any echo chamber gathering. The number of macs you will see is far better than the 5-10% market share they have. So even the pundits still buy their products without social media campaigns…

  • When Steve Jobs is at the helm, Apple will sit arrogantly on that hill, looking down on everyone. It doesn’t have to say anything – people will still bow at its feet.

    Unfortunately, Apple followers tend have the same attitude. I don’t think they live in the same universe as everyone else.

  • Dave-More reason for Apple to get involved. They ARE PRIME candidates for social media. They have evangelists-why not help them out?

    I am not sure shunning bloggers is a good idea. It’s definitely not a good branding move.

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  • I blogged about this very same thing. My take on it is that the use of social media is a reflection of corporate culture. Apple is designed to within an inch of its life, and tightly controlled – in a fascist dictatorship, the trains always run on time.

    Maybe I’m being unkind. I do enjoy Apple products, after all. But I just wonder what will happen when Jobs goes.

    My original blog post: http://madyoungthing.blogspot.com/2008/05/why-apple-doesnt-get-social-media.html

  • Interesting post, with only 11.8% of the Fortune 500 blogging, we are still in early adopter stage for social media. However, for tech companies I think we are in the mainstream, 50% of the companies adopting blogs in the f500 or tech and telco. Apple’s lack of approach to social media is puzzling, and is probably more a result of its leadership than a lack of a need to be competitive. My advice to any company regarding social media is to monitor what is being said about you, and if there is sufficient industry and brand discussion really consider getting involved. I wouldn’t change that advice for Apple.

  • I like apples! Just talking about them makes me want to buy 3 versions of the Ipod in a row along with an apple IPhone I cant use in my cellphone package area just so that I can show it off. Social media ~ more like Cult Media. Weeeeee!

  • Angus

    It’s be interesting to see how they will handle their MobileMe outage issues. It appears they have they started to or maybe they will soon start listening to what users are saying online?

    I just read AppleInsider report they are now posting their outage with near-daily updates.

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  • Apple is so overrated and definitely won’t be needing social media intervention thingy.

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    • Buzz has positive or negative charge… banking all their publicity on Steve Job’s arrogance is just irresponsible.

  • It seems to be a new idea.
    Thanks for sharing it.

  • Nice blog.
    Thanks for sharing it.

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