Not content with revolutionising the MP3 and mobile markets, along with creating some of the most iconic and desirable consumer products of the 21st Century, Apple has now turned its Midas touch to the social media sphere. But will the oddly named ‘Ping’ network prove to be another runaway success for Steve Jobs et al, or is this a step too far for Apple’s all-consuming tentacles?
On the face of it, Ping looks a solid bet. Rather than attempting to create ‘AppleBook’ or ‘FaceApple’, the brand has wisely focused on targeting a specific market segment – the music industry. Whilst this is a natural sector for Apple to tap in to given the impressive behemoth that is iTunes, it nevertheless makes savvy commercial sense to engage an audience that shares a collective common interest.
‘Ping’ offers standard ‘profile’ settings – we can all add a photo, some egotistical spiel about ourselves, connect with friends etc. – all very standard. The hook, however, is provided by allowing users to ‘like’ songs, albums and artists on the iTunes network, as well as submit reviews and share playlists. These nice touches will no doubt appeal to musical purists, as well as to musical narcissists racing to create a visibly ‘trendy’ musical library – which is music to the ears of the social / digital bods at Apple.
One of the things community managers fear most is a silent arena. There’s nothing worse than driving consumers to your network or forum, only for them to be met with a digital silence. But here’s where, in my opinion, I think Apple have been extraordinarily clever. ‘Ping’ will generate a raft of user-generated content from passionate advocates – an intriguing feature that many more generic social networks fail to achieve.
So is this yet another step on the path to world domination for Apple? On the face of it, one would think that the brand has struck digital gold once again. But the Social Media sea is an oft-tempestuous place. One needs only to mention the two words ‘Google Wave’ to prove that the biggest brands in the world can get things spectacularly wrong – a big brand name does not automatically equate to social success.
As both a digital marketer and a music aficionado, the concept of ‘Ping’ interests me on multiple levels. There’s no doubt that the social media sphere has long presented opportunities for a successful music-based network, and, commercially, Apple has the infrastructure to accommodate this. Conversely, I’m left wondering whether Apple is in fact using ‘social’ to serve its own commercial interests rather than providing consumers with a genuinely engaging, dynamic and broad social platform.
There are a lot of questions that only time will answer, but one thing’s for certain – branding ‘Ping’ with the Apple logo does not necessarily mean that the venture will be a success. Watch this space…
(You can find me, and my musical tastes, on Ping by searching for Callum Saunders.)