Ping – why the fuss?

So in my last post, I was fairly negative about Ping, Apple’s venture into social media, and I’m not sure I fully explained why. I said it was fiddly to use, and unattractive. But what was so bad about it? After all, Facebook regularly irritates all its users, but it’s still dominating the social media world. Why, you might ask, be so rude about Ping? Why not just wait and see?

The reason is that Ping is missing the point of social networking, and in my opinion, is there to drive Apple’s music sales rather than truly being a social network. Is there anything wrong with driving music sales? No. Is there anything wrong with putting that ahead of social networking? Well, yes, if you’re trying to be a social media site.

It’s not just random chance that decides which social media sites people like, any more than it’s just chance which businesses thrive in any other sphere. The secret to success is giving the customer what they want. And in a social media setting, which is about the personal, about friends and opinions, that means putting the customer in control of what they say. Social media is, for many people, an intensely personal space. In a world dominated by big shops, big employers, big banks and big government, social media is the place where the small guy can speak. If a business wants true customer loyalty, all they need to do is to show that they’re listening. If the customer feels that you are listening to him, that you get him, and that you will respond to him, he will do business with you at the first opportunity.

What does this have to do with Ping? Simply that Apple have missed this fact. Ping puts the chance to make sales above the chance to speak or connect. Oh, those latter two are there all right, but they’re a lesser priority. Apple has spent more time on ways to show and sell tracks than it has on developing ways to let people speak – or let businesses hear.

With Ping, Apple is talking loud, but not letting its users speak. And that’s not good social media, and it’s not good business.

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