Marketing Bootcamp

Apple's First Social-Media Guru on the No. 1 Way to Market Your Brand

Peter Friedman ran social media for Apple before it was even called social media. Working directly with Steve Jobs starting back in 1984, the Harvard Business School grad oversaw AppleLink, which spun off as the beginnings of AOL (America Online).

Live and online from about 1985 to 1994, AppleLink was Apple’s first online community for users, third party developers and Apple product dealers across the world.

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Fast-forward to today, 18 years since Friedman, author of The CMO’s Social Media Handbook (LiveWorld, 2014), left Apple to launch LiveWorld, the social media content company he is still chairman and CEO of today. We’d say the leap worked out quite well for him.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company has grown to become one of the most trusted names in corporate social-media marketing. LiveWorld’s client list reads like a Silicon Valley A-List roster, boasting heavy hitters like Intuit, Cisco, Hewlett Packard and Flipboard, to name a few. There’s also Dove, Pfizer, General Electric, Sony Ericsson, Nokia and, well, you get the point.

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So, what's Friedman's top social-media tip for building buzz around a brand? Party like a rock star.

Create a fun, upbeat environment -- on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, on all of the social platforms your brand has a presence on -- in which your current and potential customers can talk to each other. The key, Friedman says, is to encourage them to chat up your brand together, as if they were at a killer party at your house.   

“My favorite metaphor for social-media marketing is that you’re throwing a party,” a Fedora-topped Friedman told us this week at the C-Suite Network Conference in Marina Del Rey, Calif. “When you build a really good party, everyone wants to come.”

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But no one wants to hang around at a party where the host gets up in front of everyone and talks about himself the whole time. “Everyone will say, ‘Whoa, what an ego this guy has. He doesn’t even care about us. His schtick is getting boring. Let’s leave and we’re never coming back.’”

In social media, think of your target customers as your party guests, as potential brand ambassadors mingling amongst each other. Foster connections and conversations between them by posting social content about topics that resonate with them 80 percent of the time and only weave in brand messages 20 percent of the time. It’s a delicate but critical balance.

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“When you have a good time at a good party, people go, ‘Wow! This brand really understands us. They make a great party. I want to come back to this brand’s party and bring my friends. Then people will equate their positive online experiences with your brand with your products and your services.”

Think about it. What kind of social media party are you throwing for your customers?  

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