What Took Apple so Long?

Without fail, there is always some sort of malfunction with my iPhone. I’ve had the home button stop working, the power button get stuck, the “+” volume button fail, the home button come loose and start spinning, and a random streak of rainbow colors that ran vertically through the entire screen of my phone. And all of this is from someone who is extremely (almost neurotically) careful with their phone.

So what happens every time I have a problem with my iPhone? Well, I go online and book an appointment so that a Genius the Apple store can help me.

(The Genius Bar is never this empty at my mall, so an appointment is always necessary.)

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As I drive to my nearest Apple store, I pray that they can help me and that my trip to the mall is worth it.

However, this experience may be significantly changed now that Apple has finally joined Twitter. On March 3rd, Apple revealed their new Twitter account, @AppleSupport. With this account Apple is able to post tips and tutorials as well as respond to tech questions. According to an article by Business Insider, this account generated over 121,000 followers and tweeted more than 2,200 times to Apple customers with instructions on how they could solve their problems all within the first 24 hours. This Apple Support is available for 15 hours a day and was therefore able to respond to between 2 and 3 tweets per minute.

Prior to this introduction, Apple users were able to seek this kind of support in person at an Apple retail store, over the phone or in an online chat with Apple Support, or in an online Apple Support Community. While going to the Apple store has the benefit of being able to interact with someone in person and have your device fixed there, this involves traveling and has a degree of uncertainty because it is not always true that they can help you (especially for the price you’re willing to pay). Over the phone and online, you can chat with representatives who can direct you either to the store or to a simple at home solution. Unfortunately, these options can have a significant lag time because of busy phone lines or less knowledgeable employees than the ones in the retail stores. Online Apple Support Communities have the added benefit that you can search through questions that other users have asked and solve your problems based on the advice that was previously shared. You can also explore different “communities” that pertain to solving problems for the various Apple products and services. The problem with this is that the information on these pages is limited and provides more of a “one size fits all” type of solution. Now that Apple Support is on Twitter, people have another place to turn to for real-time customer service.

So why did Apple not join Twitter sooner? Roughly a year ago, Google had 8 million followers, Microsoft had 4 million, and Apple had only 26,000.

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CNBC

This Apple account, @Apple, has never tweeted, followed anyone, or had a bio or image associated with it. This inactive account either does not belong to Apple or was taken over by Apple simply so that someone else would not have the rights to this username.

Apple did however have other official niche accounts prior to @AppleSupport. These include @iTunesMusic, @AppStore, and @iTunesTrailers. Together these various accounts had a combined 2.5 million followers in 2014, and Apple CEO Tim Cook has generated nearly the same amount of followers on his own personal Twitter account. Nonetheless there has been an overall lack of a unified social media voice for Apple.

How can it be that a multinational tech company as well established as Apple did not start to embrace Twitter until now? While Apple has not provided any specific reasons for this, we can speculate on why the company is so social media shy in general. The first explanation would be that Apple likes to maintain very tight control over what is released to the public and what people are saying in response. Apple does not have an official Facebook page and while they do have a Youtube account with over 3 million subscribers, they have disabled the commenting feature. Another hypothesized reason for this hesitancy is that Apple may not have much of real interest to tweet. It is a concern that if they tweet about their new product introductions, the market could see this as Apple succumbing to market pressures. There is also no chance that Apple is looking to answer questions about their “notoriously secretive earnings call” or run promotional tweets. After all, Apple prides itself on providing a premium experience and if they do start running the @Apple account, some may begin to wonder if Apple is having trouble selling its products or if they have lost their cool and hip image.

To me it seems as though Apple will be able to negate some of these concerns since they have created an account on Twitter simply designated towards answering technology questions. Apple received a warm welcome from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey as well as from its users. Customers like me now have the potential to take away some of the lag time and uncertainty involved in getting tech support and Apple can potentially increase its customer satisfaction.

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Do you think you’ll be taking advantage of this in the future?

14 comments

  1. Very interesting that it took them this long. I might utilize this new tool in the future because of a recent experience with Apple Support over the phone. I was on the phone for probably 40 minutes having the tech support switching me to “higher up” managers and didnt get to resolve my issue. They then said they would call back if the solved the issue and received no call back. Twitter is interesting because it will hopefully just get back to you in a fast manner. Companies such as Dell and Starbucks have had amazing customer support which then also led to the development of their new products. So having another platform the makes everyones tech issues public could push Apple to fix the similar problems that many people have.

  2. I had no idea Apple wasn’t active on Twitter. That does seem crazy to me. I think Apple already feels quite close to their customers and that’s probably what kept them off the platform. I wonder how well they will be able to manage responses on Twitter, because I’m sure they will get a high volume of @s.

  3. Great blog. I never realized apple was so far behind its competitors in regards to twitter usage. This seems like an awesome and well needed addition to their brand and customer service. I wonder how this will impact the usage of the genius bar and the demographics that are interacting with apple on twitter.

  4. Nice post. It actually inspired me to go ahead and reach out about a problem I have, so hopefully I’ll have a report by class as to how well it worked. Apple has been notoriously reluctant to join social media. Part of the reason may be that saying nothing has been a powerful marketing tool for them in the past.

  5. I’m also really surprised that Apple hasn’t had an active Twitter presence prior to this, but it does make sense that staying away from Twitter perpetuated their sleek/mysterious brand image they strive to maintain. However, I am interested to see how successful this is in terms actually helping users solve their problems. I can see this being great for a quick technology fix but for a more lengthly problem the Genius Bar will be my go-to.

  6. Great post, Ashley! I was also really intrigued by what seemed like a totally out-of-the-blue decision to finally join Twitter as Apple, and not a business unit like Apple Music or the App Store. I guess if you get technical, you could say that Apple Support is still more like a secondary entity because it’s focused on product support and customer service rather than the marketing and communications of the company as a whole. I definitely agree with you that Apple’s reluctance to join Twitter (and its minimal presence on social media in general) is a reflection of their notoriously secretive nature. I think Apple Support makes a lot of sense and it’s something I’ll definitely use if I ever have the need, but I’m still wondering why now and how this really adds substantial value for Apple.

  7. Interesting post Ashley! I think Apple’s presence on Twitter highlights the shift of the social media’s usage. I think originally most people utilized Twitter for advertising and marketing purposes, which didn’t go well for the Apple’s “close to the vest” nature. I definitely think with Twitter’s usage shifting to mass-communication and rapid connection has made it unique and much more valuable for company’s trying to reach out to their customers. I myself often used blogs and forums for information about my Apple products; hopefully this initiative will allow me to get equally valuable information from the company itself.

  8. After checking out the @AppleSupport account on Twitter, I found the tweets related to tips and tricks to be really beneficial to all Apple users. One tweet included pictures of step-by-step instructions on how to turn lists in the Notes app into checklists, a feature that I was not aware even existed but will definitely use in the future. I do not know if I will personally use the Twitter account to ask technical questions. Any time I have an issue with an Apple product, it is usually something more complex and probably couldn’t be solved easily via Twitter. I could see this account being more helpful for people who don’t have many Apple products or those who aren’t as tech savvy at figuring out tech issues on their own.

  9. Does apple even need a social media presence? i feel like they are so beyond the need to broadcast what they are doing. Every major act becomes national news, so it is almost like they are too cool for twitter. If anything, i thing this adds to their brand rather than take away from it.

  10. Wow, never really noticed this but now that I know it’s hard to explain why it never crossed my mind! I guess with so much online media coverage around Apple products, events, launches, and speculations it just seemed like they were already on social. One of the first things that came to my head while reading your post was if Apple was abstaining from social media because its just another thing to do, which would require time, labor, and money. By staying away from all that, they can continue to focus on what they do best: innovation.

  11. Nice post, you make a great point, I wonder why they didn’t do it sooner. But at the same time, imagine the volume that will go to this account. I think also some people prefer the face to face aspect. Either way I think we are night and day over the old system. I was thinking just the other day about how I used to have to get on the tech support line with blackberry and I would have to send them my phone and they would send me another one back….that sounds insane. Now when I see an apple tech they can fix the problem right on the spot- More so than the product, I think this peace of mind is their biggest strength

  12. Cool post! It really shows that Apple is different because they “can”. How can a tech company be so “antisocial” in social networks? Because they can. It would be a mistake if any other modern company didn’t consider the fact of getting into social media to reach more people. Apple can just wait and see. Other accounts are already doing their work, many blogs, youtube channels, Apple fans are doing this work for free, and often giving great publicity. Why would they bother to ruin such a good situation? I feel like AppleSupport is just a way to cut down the queues and overused genius bar with pointless problems. So they can be more efficient in a face to face contact.

  13. I will most likely be using this feature. While I love apple products, they always come across some problem without fail. The genius bar has helped me numerous times but often appointments are booked days and sometimes weeks in advance which can make the experience frustrating and time-consuming. In addition, even when you have an appointment, you still have to check in and wait around. I think it is a good move on Apple’s part because about 25% of my personal twitter use is to tweet and companies and celebrities to complain.

  14. This is a huge step forward for Apple. Customers are pushing companies to have a social media presence and interact with them on a daily basis and, while this is not social interaction, it is still somewhere customers can reach out to Apple. This is also a very cheap way to relive stress associated with their product. Any little issue I had with my phone, like the flashlight not working, I would just deal with it and slowly get more angry with my iphone and Apple, but now it is as simple as sending a tweet to receive expert advice.

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