Every marketer worth his or her snuff is advising companies to have conversations with their customers. Actually, companies have always had these conversations. In marketing 1.0, though, they were pretty one-sided, with many companies acting like the obnoxious blowhard that couldn't seem to stop talking about himself, mostly in superlatives. What was missing was the sense that they ever listened to their customers.
That's changing, with companies striving to strike a more personal note on channels like Facebook and Twitter. Some, like Best Buy, are creating new roles for folks to craft and manage their social media strategies. (In Best Buy's case, it's a manager of emerging media marketing.)
Apple is a notable exception. As I wrote in June, plenty of folks talk about the company's products, but Apple itself doesn't join the conversations. It doesn't have an official presence on Facebook or Twitter. Dan Lyons, ostensibly a writer for publications like Forbes and Newsweek, launched a sideline career by creating an online Fake Steve Jobs persona. That wouldn't have been possible if the real Steve Jobs wasn't so famously private.
InformationWeek's Jonathan Salem Baskin doesn't think Apple's silence is a problem. Apple's actions speak louder than words, he writes:
The fact that Apple doesn't declare, but rather does things, suggests to me a model for other businesses to emulate, not the other way around. ...
Maybe so, and Apple is known for inspriing slavish loyalty among its fans. But that loyalty may fade, if the company persists in treating customers experiencing problems with its products as nuisances. A Brit named Ken Stanborough was incensed when Apple offered a refund for his daughter's iPod after it exploded, but only if he first signed an agreement promising not to reveal details of the settlement, backed up with the threat of legal action.
Apple's lucky Stanborough didn't make a clever YouTube video, like the band Sons of Maxwell did when United Airlines ruined an expensive guitar on a flight, then stonewalled instead of offering a refund.