Monday, January 28, 2008

Should Apple be blogging?

'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' immediately comes to mind. Apple has always taken a very standoffish stance toward bloggers and the blogosphere. In fact, some bloggers have been told by the company that what they say isn't important enough to read, that they are 'just a blogger'. Wait...didn't Dell get raked over the coals unmercifully for doing almost the same thing?

But both Dell and Microsoft, two of Apples' biggest competitors, have employees that blog, and publically engage bloggers. While Apple and Jobs seem to ignore social media until forced to respond, Dell and Gates are encouraging their companies to not only test the social media waters, but to dive in.

But how did embracing blogging help Dell and Microsoft? In both cases, it helped change the conversation that we were having about each company. Dell went from being aloof to human when they stopped ignoring bloggers during Dell Hell, and started engaging us in our space. Microsoft went from being the 'Evil Empire', to being human once thousands of their employees started blogging, and Robert Scoble started Channel 9. Gates should still be sending Scoble a royalty check on the goodwill that he helped build for Mr. Softie.

In both cases, blogging helped Dell and Microsoft better connect with its customers and the conversation we were having about each company changed a bit. But does Apple really want or need its conversation to change? As I mentioned when Jobs announced the Macbook Air at MacWorld, both Apple and its customers are having the same conversation. Both groups loooooove its products.

But Apple apparently doesn't love bloggers. Jens Alfke recently quit Apple, and cited the company's stance toward bloggers as one of the reasons why he decided to leave:
And then there are blogs. Apple doesn’t like them, not when they talk about it. (Big surprise.) I’ve heard it said that there are hardly any bloggers working at Apple; there are actually a lot more than you’d think, but they mostly keep it a secret. (I could out a few people, including at least one director…) I think Apple’s policy on blogging is one of the least enlightened of major tech companies; Microsoft in particular is surprisingly open.

I believe in being individual, and open. It always got on my nerves that there were so many things I couldn’t write about (not confidential information, of course, just public stuff) without the very real chance of waking up to a testy email the next day.

The great thing about blogging is that it can help change two conversations (company and customers), into one direct channel between both groups. But only if the company is willing to open itself to feedback from bloggers. Right now it seems that Apple's closed and controlling culture won't allow this to happen.

But times and conversations change. Perhaps the question isn't 'Should Apple be blogging?', but rather 'What could cause Apple to change its stance toward bloggers and blogging?'

Bonus Link: Former Apple employee Steve Chazin adds that "And all us bloggers do their viral marketing for them. Apple, it's time to open up and let your employees blog free! We can use the help."

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Anonymous said...

Nyah... if Apple started blogging, then it would lose that "we're too cool to bother with what you are thinking" mystique.

Mack Collier said...

But what happens when the perception changes to being 'Apple thinks it's so big that it doesn't have to pay attention to bloggers'.

It can all go to hell in a Macbook VERY quickly after that.

Not sure that Apple should be blogging, but I do think that they should begin to make moves to be more open to listening to what bloggers are saying.

Anonymous said...

Ooooh. I don't like it, but Ike has a point.

Every strategy has its risks, but if Apple did want to enter into this realm, it would have to be careful not to sacrifice its creativity and authenticity.

"We did this because you asked us to" doesn't have the same ring to it as "We did this because we're geniuses."

I'm not saying Apple shouldn't blog or (especially) reach out to bloggers, but they have much to risk if they do it wrong -- that is to say, conventionally.

Anonymous said...

If you are company like MSFT or Dell that basically re-hashs old products that were tired in 1990's (that is, Windows and corporate run-of-the-mill PC's) you can afford to jawbone. If you are actually doing the business of changing the world, some circumspection is needed, to keep the competition in the dark

Mack Collier said...

BTW almost every day I notice visitors coming here from Could be that it's just the same guy/gal, or could be several. So some Apple employees are already monitoring blogs, even if the company doesn't openly encourage it.

Anonymous said...

Apple is a clever company. They are doing something right-monitoring, responding indirectly, researching conversations.

On that note, out of the 50 top online advertisers in 2007, only 6 of them blog. GM, Netflix and Monster are amongst them.

Great post Collier.

Anonymous said...

"out of the 50 top online advertisers in 2007, only 6 of them blog. GM, Netflix and Monster are amongst them. "

Combined with Dell and MSFT, there may well be an INVERSE correleation with blogging activity and company quality! (nothing against Netflix, but I think Apple's downloadable strategy will win the day.)