In case you hadn’t noticed, social is the biggest thing in digital marketing right now.
Facebook is worth $100bn (sort of), Twitter has more than 140m active users and brands are busy experimenting with Pinterest in anticipation of it being ‘the next big thing.’
Yet one company stands alone in refusing to join the rush to social, and it just so happens to be the world’s biggest tech company.
Apple’s refusal to truly embrace social is well documented, but I was encouraged to take a closer look at its approach by the laughable share buttons on its e-commerce site.
Nearly every company you can name has filled its product pages with share icons for Facebook, Twitter, and in some cases Pinterest, but Apple doesn’t have any.
Well actually it does, but they’re hidden in a subtle drop-down menu that looks like it contains product options rather than sharing tools.
The buttons themselves don’t contain any icons or branding for Facebook or Twitter, they are just cold, unattractive text.
This lack of any social buttons extends to its other software, iTunes has a ‘like’ button but that’s for its music social network Ping, which nobody uses.
In the past year it has integrated Twitter into its mobile and Mac operating systems, but while this is an acknowledgment that its customers want social apps, Apple has steered clear of embracing social for it marketing.
But predictably all of the accounts just push out marketing messages and don’t make any attempt to respond to consumers.
Ironically, much of Apple’s marketing takes place on social media as its fans create buzz around new product launches on blogs and Twitter, yet Apple apparently does nothing to get involved with or influence the discussion.
Essentially, its strategy is to create a social buzz by staying completely silent, instead letting the rumour mill do the PR work instead.
The contrast between the launch of the iPhone 4S with the current marketing campaign going on to promote Samsung’s Galaxy S3 is remarkable.
Yet Apple has no official accounts on either network, and instead relies on traditional media such as TV ads.
The veil of secrecy is obviously part of Apple’s master plan to generate excitement around its products, but its employees may find it frustrating.
While many brands encourage their employees to blog and tweet about the company, Apple apparently forbids staff from discussing the company or posting comments on third-party Apple and Mac-related sites.
Programmers and software engineers tend to be very active in online forums and blogs, so it must lead to some tension within the company.
Obviously it would be churlish to suggest that a business with profits of £7.2bn from the first three months of this year needs to have a major rethink of its marketing strategy.
Apple’s profits are now bigger than Google’s total revenues, and it sold more than 11.8m iPads and 35m iPhones in Q1. So should Apple be doing more with social? Definitely not. After all why change a winning formula now?
But while it’s interesting to note that Apple’s runaway success has come in spite of its refusal to use social media, it also doesn’t mean that Samsung should ditch its social activity.
There are clearly benefits to social media in terms of engaging with consumers and building customer loyalty, it’s just that Apple’s success means it doesn’t have to chase Facebook likes.
And success also allows it to tack on shoddy share buttons to the Apple Store without caring what its users think.