Lack of Social Media Taking A Bite Out of Apple?

Excited. Anxious. Too eager to wait. I rip into a present without waiting for my family to gather around me. I begin to smile with the wattage of a thousand suns. My parents bought me an iPod. MY PARENTS BOUGHT ME AN iPOD! I tear into the iPod’s protective packaging and immediately begin to “ooo” and “ahh” at all of its amazing features. I finally feel like I belong to the “cool kids” – those elite kids at school that walk around with their headphones on, not caring what others think. Running up the stairs to my room, I yell over my shoulder, “Thanks Mom and Dad!” I didn’t emerge from my room for hours.

I will never forget the first Apple product I received. I instantly felt I had gained the elusive “coolness” factor that only came with an iPod. It’s this image – the elitist, hip, cool factor – that has helped drive Apple sales from its beginning. With the company launching itself into popular culture with arguably the best, most creative advertisement of all time, it makes sense that this image would persist into the modern day.

While Apple has always been incredibly secretive about product launches, it has also always been on the cutting edge of new technology adoption, with one major exception: adopting social media. Even though Apple revolutionized the way people purchase music and greatly increased awareness of podcasting via iTunes, the company remains dismissive of all other social media, enforcing a very restrictive social media policy upon all of its employees.

The limited social media Apple has consists of a Twitter page for iTunes, a Facebook fan page for iTunes, a Facebook fan page for the Apple App Store (promotes applications for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad) and a YouTube channel specifically for Apple launched this past January. Apple, as a whole, does not engage in social media. Through my research, I found that the employees of Apple are strongly discouraged to keep a blog or engage in Apple-related social media. In the past, Apple has gone as far as suing bloggers for posting about Apple products. While the iTunes Facebook page and Twitter account, the Facebook fan page for the Apple App Store and the YouTube account are a start, by and large Apple does not maintain a presence on social media, nor does it try to spark conversation with its fans.

Many argue that Apple does not need to engage in social media, as its dedicated band of followers create enough buzz about its products on various social networking sites without any input from the company. Yet, one begins to wonder: How much longer can Apple rely on its fans for positive social media?

Forever, or so it seems. My primary example hails from all but two days ago. I’m sure you all know the story by now – Apple engineer “accidentally” leaves his iPhone 4 in a bar in the Silicon Valley; Gizmodo pays nearly $15,000 to acquire the phone; Gizmodo instantly begins to write about its new acquisition, analyzing every aspect of the phone, writing about all of its specifications.

The social media world blew up. “iPhone 4” instantly became a trending topic on Twitter. Hundreds of blog posts have been written about the new iPhone in the mere two days since its “accidental” release. From the buzz generated by this “accident,” Apple proved why it does not need to participate in social media. Would its fans love it if it did? Of course. But, why be transparent when it’s not necessary? Why loose your “cool” factor when you have millions of fans that will keep it alive for generations to come?

I think a day in the future will come when Apple has to begin engaging with its audience, but, for now, I think Apple is safe without running the risks that social media brings.

(Originally posted here)

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