Apple's avoidance of engagement with social media is legendary. But does it need to get involved? Its SMR score is enviably high with minimal official input from the brand. The trick to its success in social media is its two main advocates: Steve Jobs, and Apple fans.
You could say that Apple's social media strategy is to create great products, and let people get on with talking to each other about them. Apple products are disruptive. Other companies may produce products as good - or even better - but they're playing catch-up to a brand that reportedly has its product pipeline agreed until 2013. Apple isn't known for its transparency: the buzz that precedes a major product launch is fuelled by rumour, not by any official marketing communications. The lack of official communication helps to build the hype.
But what happens if the halo loses its shine, or there's a major product issue? Apple doesn't have official presences on many of the channels that consumers use to talk about it - most notably, Facebook. (It doesn't respond quickly, either - it took three weeks for Jobs to address consumer complaints about the signal issue on the iPhone 4.) This wouldn't matter a damn if there was no representation of Apple on Facebook. But there is. There are millions of consumers signing up to be 'fans' of the brand, on hundreds of unofficial accounts.
So, is this a problem? Not at present. The financial results speak for themselves. But it could cause problems in the future. We'll probably only find out if something goes seriously wrong and Jobs' latest absence potentially leaves them vulnerable.
Steve Jobs' empire is a force unto itself. Breaking almost every marketing rule in the book, you just can't compare the rules of best practice to anything Apple does. With a very controlled but smart communications strategy, the brand focuses on peer advocacy and product placement, shunning more traditional PR. Quality of product and ease of use makes this hugely successful. And let's face it, a desirable product can get away with an awful lot.
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