This week the social media world has been talking about Apple. Not surprisingly, every social media channel is jam packed with debate and discussion about the new iPhone 6.
But interestingly, the focus of debate in marketing circles (check out Forbes this week) has not been about the quantity of public discussion (or the impending queues that are coming to an Apple store near you!) but the lack of a formal presence of the Apple brand in social media circles.
Historically, Apple have kept super tight control on brand messaging (some believe claustrophobically so). But back in the era when the message was the man, and Steve Jobs was the message creator and giver, it perhaps made sense?
Today, Apple has taken some baby steps into the social arena, under the watchful eye of their new CEO Angela Adrendts who has appointed a new and respected duo of John Agnew and Musa Tariq. The brand has been seen to experiment in recent months with new social media approaches albeit, some have been short lived. For example, there was a short flirtation with Tumblr to advertise the iPhone 5c.
Call it experimentation or indecision? The reality is that we are all waiting for something big from Apple on social media. The people who are teaching our two year olds to swipe before they can say the words “mummy” must surely be able to crack social media?
The harsh reality is that in business terms, it is a challenge that the Apple digital team need to conquer (and conquer soon). For a brand that has fanatical fans and has moved from a proposition that was historically tangible and product focussed, to a more emotional appeal today, there is really no choice!
The brand strives to reach those who label themselves as rebels and artists and a key element of emotional appeal is rapport. Something that Apple have got really right in store.
It is very rare to walk inside an Apple store and not be greeted by someone bouncy, smiley and fun (often with larger than life hair). But the challenge for Apple is now how they capture and bottle just a small part of this and share with their fans socially. This contrasts with the clinically white sterile backdrop of the stores and how does the brand re-create that in Twitter, or Facebook?
Having captured the essence of the content that makes them Apple, the next challenge will be to consistently deliver that content to reinforce the brand. Letting go is alien to the Apple brand and it will be interesting to see how they crack the trust issue with those representing the brand in social spaces.
We know that the Apple brand wants us to ‘think differently’ so it must feel very alien to follow the well trodden trail into social media channels but the reality is that social media is just that – a channel! What a brand does in that channel marks the difference between the ‘plodders’ and the shining ‘engagers’.
Apple desperately need to find their strategic social footing, with competition closing in, we don’t envy John and Musa who must be feeling the pressure to come up with the ‘next big thing’. In fairness, their endeavours on YouTube to date have been rewarded but something more is needed (and expected).
So what can we learn from Apple? We believe that there are many lessons that businesses (of all sizes) can glean from Apple. It’s reassuring to know that even big brands face the challenge of brand building in social media environments, a challenge that faces us all.
We bet that those reading this blog could picture a number of businesses or organisations where the CEO is in effect the brand. Where the marketing team have less focus on messaging and more on pretty marketing collateral, relying on the lone voice to at the very least, be consistent!
There will be many boardrooms this month and every month into the foreseeable future, having the discussion about the need to up the anti on social media and wondering how to control the message?
So if you are one of those CEO’s, board directors or marketing teams looking to take a more serious plunge into social media we would advise that you consider the following:
1) Plan, plan & plan some more – Apple are credited with taking a very considered approach, they are taking their time and testing differing ideas. With brand reputation at stake, failing to plan could be catastrophic on your bottom line.
2) Define the message – stupid as it sounds, many organisations are very bad at actually defining their key messages or describing their offer. Ensure that messaging work is robust, in the context of the here and now and relevant to your audience.
3) Match the platform to the message – different messages require different tones of voice and different styles of delivery! For example, if you need to create emotional connection you may have a stronger bias to platforms that allow you to share images or support storytelling.
4) Train & develop – we are seeing increasing evidence that the impact of training is significant when it comes to brand building in social media environments. Less emphasis on the mechanics and more on the content is a recipe for success!
5) Audit & moderate – enterprise versions of social media management tools allow organisations to audit and moderate posts and content sent out. The software contains messaging dictionaries that allow a brand to monitor and moderate the use of key messages.
We wish Apple luck in finding their moment to shine in social media. And no doubt their experienced team will crack it. But where do you go if you are facing the same dilemmas? Please get in touch – without exception our marketing and customer service teams are experienced marketeers and social media is our bread and butter.
CrowdControlHQ is the UK’s leading social media risk management platform built for enterprise. Used by leading brands to build brand reputation and effectively engage audiences.
Marketing Director CrowdControlHQ
Module leader MSc Marketing Communications (Birmingham Business School)