My MIT experience has been incredibly eye opening. I recently had the opportunity to write for the MIT Entrepreneurship Review (fondly referred to as MITER) and discussed what I see as “the rocket fuel” that runs the MIT entrepreneurial engine. Check out the post here.
While Apple’s latest additions to its product lineup are arguably their best ever, their latest gaffes have been even better (at least for entertainment value). The iPhone 4, the sleekest, sexiest, thinnest, most fully functional badass superphone to hit the market, came with two amazing undocumented “features”: (1) it didn’t quite sync with exchange and (2) it came with an unanticipated hang-up button. How a company that is known for developing stable, easy to use products could release its flagship iPhone without first finding these flaws blows my mind. In the aftermath, Steve Jobs (whose email account is very well known to the public) has sent some scathing remarks to Apple customers via email. The same customers that he’s spent the last decade training to insta-buy his products whenever he chooses to release them. It is Steve’s zesty remarks that are the foundation of this post.
Twitter is all about brand building (both for people and for companies). The reason it acts this way is two-fold: (1) it’s an open environment to share thoughts, express feelings, and “legitamize” content (i.e. saying you believe that certain content is relevant to you / your company) and (2) it naturally induces conversation by reducing the distance between any two human beings (whether they’re little ol’ me or Mark Cuban) to an “@” symbol and 140 characters. Branding is all about an inherent dialogue between the brand and current / potential customer. Traditionally, by the sheer limits of media, branding was a primarily one way conversation. Today, however, through services like Twitter, both you and I can engage in a two-way communication with the brands we love and hate. As a consumer obsessed with technology, I’m a fan of a lot of things that optimize / enhance my life or just entertain me. Today when I am either pleased or pissed with a product I turn to twitter. Over the past year I’ve noticed brands engaging back in response (Tungle, Zappos, Comcast amongst many others). These responses have had a consistent positive impact on me as a consumer; they’ve either reduced my discontent or strengthened my brand loyalty (BTW, Comcast I hate you less, and Tungle / Zappos I <3 you more).
Onto Steve Jobs and why, given the latest emails he fired over the bough, he is the last person on earth that should be tweeting. Let me preface this by saying that I believe everything I read on the internet. Based on this preface, from what I’ve read Steve Jobs acts as a monarch at Apple (just see how he parks), is transparent with his expectations, and says EXACTLY what’s on his mind. Those are phenomenal qualities for a visionary leader, but horrible qualities if aimed at a pissed off and rabidly fanatical fan-base. Steve needs to learn this and FAST. While he doesn’t “Tweet” per se, any email he sends to an individual gets plastered on a thousand blogs and becomes a trending topic on Twitter.
So here’s my suggestion. While I have infinite respect for Steve Jobs and his willingness to spend time engaging with customers via email, he should only do so when it reinforces positive product / brand perceptions. For the negative situations, the situations where perhaps holding a phone in a certain way drops a call, he needs to let a herd of professional communications / PR folks take the lead on managing the brand’s response to the consumer. Oh and whoever is doing PR for Apple, don’t ever, EVER, let Steve Jobs get a Twitter account. Instead of 9 out of 10 fiery messages making it into the spotlight (and at least some question as to their authenticity), you’ll have all 10 to contend with.