Apple is already one of the top enablers for all the social media magic that happens in the world. How many times do you – or someone you know – update a Facebook status from your Mac? Tweet about an interesting news item from your shiny new iPad? Upload an iPhone 4 photo to Flickr? The company’s easy-to-use software and stylish products combine with the instant ability to share with friends and family – not to mention business colleagues or potential clients – to help drive social media’s mainstream acceptance in both the home and the office.
Now, after seeing Facebook and Twitter gain such momentum, Apple and Steve Jobs have decided not only to join those social media, but perhaps beat them at their own game.
This week Apple launched Ping, a music-oriented social network built in to iTunes 10. Users can engage in Twitter-like following of their favorite artists (Ms. Pop Culture Flavor of the Year, Lady Gaga, is used as an example in the Apple.com demonstration) and those artists can share pictures, information and what they’re listening to with their fans. Users can also set up their own Facebook-style profiles and gain followers who can keep up with their latest downloads, read their reviews and comment on everything that’s posted.
It’s another brilliant use of the technology from Apple, considering that there’s already lots of commenting and recommendation going on in iTunes. But most of it currently happens in each individual song or album’s page, and it’s usually the iTunes software that makes the recommendations to users. Now all of that is turned over to the iTunes community, which at last count was some 160 million accounts strong, making it the largest music retailer in the world.
Any business that watches its clients and customers carry around MacBookPros, iPhones and iPads needs to heed the musical lesson here: social media won’t be going away anytime soon. Just like Lady Gaga can now hear from her fans on iTunes, and she can talk directly to them as well, many businesses can open up the social media songbook and engage their audience in discussions. Those conversations can help increase sales, make existing products better, increase a company’s public profile, repair online reputations.
Apple realized that millions of users were talking about music with or without iTunes. Steve Jobs decided it was better to join the chorus. His thought may have been this: social media don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that Ping.
– Renay San Miguel