During the last several years, Apple has undeniably been the innovator in hardware design, software and personal consumer tech. They’ve also been on the cutting edge of entertainment by effectively bringing the music industry into the digital age.
Last Friday and Saturday, Robert Scoble wrote two posts that remind me (and others) of Jeff Jarvis’ Dell Hell rants. When Scoble installed last weeks updates, his computer got stuck in reboot. Here’s what he has to say:
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.
His second post discusses the brand promise that Apple makes through advertising and how he sees it flawed. You can read his full list of grievances in the post. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything he writes, I agree that Apple will need to change soon if it wants to keep up in the Post-Dell Hell era.
In its current state, Apple has a strong community of devoted users. Do an online search and you’ll find plenty of mac forums and mac blogs. There’s even a fake Steve Jobs blog. The company itself is surprisingly lacking in engagement with this community. In fact, it has actively sued bloggers in the past. In the last few weeks, Apple has even sent a cease and desist letter to a nine year old.
As Apple computers (not just iPods) are purchased by more mainstream consumers, Apple will find itself slowly being pushed into the conversation. Andy Beal at Marketing Pilgrim sees two situations that will force this change:
- 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.
So what can Apple do to increase it’s social media marketing and PR efforts:
- Create a Community Evangelist position to monitor the Apple dialog on Blogs for negative conversation threads and comment as a human. This helps consumers feel like they are being listened to, while simultaneously allowing Apple to more-or-less steer the conversation.
- Be honest. So I said they could steer the conversation…within reason. The users will be able to smell PR spin, so don’t try to incorporate too much messaging. If there is a problem, acknowledge it. Right now the Leopard install has caused crazy bugs that people are talking about in forums. Mac continues to deny it. I’m getting PO-d.
- Create a blog. Steve Rubel said it in 2004. Apple is the only large tech company to not have one. I understand corporate secrecy in product development, but come on. Dell’s is a great example. They talk about OpenWorld, Word of Mouth Marketing, Green issues, geeky consumer tech, servers, etc. They also have videos!
- Close the feedback loop. Wait, first create a feedback loop! Back to Dell: they have a created the IdeaStorm community to allow users to submit ideas and then other users vote on the ideas. The whole process is tracked with transparency and also shows results at the end. This is key: It lets consumers know they have a voice and that someone is not just listening but also acting as a result.
- Instead of suing bloggers for leaking things, show videos of products as they are being developed. Transparency and openness. Of course, you need to wait until you are close to release. If others are going to do it, owning it makes Apple cool again.
Oh, and putting out ads that show this:
When this is the reality:
Is really, really bad. It makes Apple look removed from reality, disengaged with the consumer and, frankly, a little arrogant.
What are your suggestions to Apple? Or are they doing ok? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Any Mac Marketing or PR folks wanna speak to socialTNT’s readers? Tell us what’s up!
Before I get flamed: My whole house is full of Mac equipment from desktops, laptops, network gear, etc.