2016 was the year that Apple joined the rest of the world and embraced social media.
Earlier this year, Apple launched an official Twitter account to promote the launch of the iPhone 7. And Apple has also been quietly running an official verified Facebook page for months as well, the company confirmed.
Apple has been running music-related social accounts for years, but its willingness to create official accounts for Apple itself is a relatively new development.
Instead, Apple uses the accounts to buy advertisements for its latest products, like the iPhone 7, MacBook Pro, and Apple Watch. These posts are “dark social,” which means that Apple is taking advantage of advertising tools to promote posts that don’t show up on the main account’s feed.
This approach memorably resulted in promoted tweets revealing the iPhone 7 and its key features before Apple did it itself at one of its launch events.
Here’s an ad we saw earlier this week:
This approach, while logical, seems to miss social media’s particular advantages.
It’s about authenticity
It’s not as if Apple has nothing good to share on social media.
Before the iPhone launch event, some well-connected observers thought that Apple might even want to live-tweet its own event. It didn’t, although it did end up spoiling its own launch.
But there’s lots of information Apple should communicate outside product reviews.
As more people live in the Apple ecosystem, with their phone, computer, and watch all tied together with Apple services, there’s even more of a need for the company to communicate with its customers. These folks might pay for an iPhone every two or three years, but they live with Apple every day.
Here’s one example. There’s been a nasty iCloud calendar spam problem going around. Chinese spammers figured out that if they send an unsolicited iCloud calendar invitation to nonexistent events, they can get around spam filters and Apple users will see the invite (to discount Ray-Bans or other fraudulent designer goods) on their phone.
If you look at Apple’s site, it doesn’t address the problem. But the company has actually apologised for the problem and said that they’re working on a fix — in a statement to an Apple-enthusiast site.
There are millions of Apple customers who don’t check Apple blogs obsessively. They could completely miss this official communication about a problem that could be affecting them.
Wouldn’t this be a great time for a Facebook post?
Similarly, Apple has a Twitter account that’s designed to help Apple users with problems they’re having. But Apple Support never announced that there was a fix for the sudden iPhone shutdown bug that’s been going around, or the iPhone 6 “touch disease” issue. Those announcements were buried on Apple’s official website.
Sure, there are reasons why Apple might not want to completely embrace social media. It’s not the company’s style. Brands rarely do good tweets. Trolls or people with an axe to grind could invade the comments as they already have on Apple’s profile picture. Plus, social media with an audience of tens of millions can get weird. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg.
But when readers contact me after I write stories about Apple product flaws, one of the recurring themes is that they had wished Apple had communicated with them instead of forcing them to learn in a news story. Apple already has the platform to stay in contact with its most engaged customers. It just has to tell the world what’s on its mind.