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What Social Media Marketers
Can Learn from Steve Jobs

By Eddie Reeves
Principal of Reeves Strategy Group

Let me add my voice to those thousands who have lionized the late Steve Jobs, one of the greatest business leaders, innovators, and visionaries ever.

While several have noted his near-maniacal devotion to product perfection, his uncanny ability to see around two or three corners into the future, and his one-of-a-kind knack for melding technical innovation with aesthetic sophistication, they miss some more basic reasons for his massive success. There are at least three that marketers—particularly social media marketers—would do well to emulate:

  • Steve Jobs understood and stayed true to who he was. Virtually every college management textbook will at some point regurgitate some platitude about the importance of authenticity. But very few companies even have deep understanding about what truly comprises their culture—not what they say it is on the posters in their headquarters foyer, but what it really is day to day. Not so for Jobs and Apple. They understood at a cellular level what set Apple apart, and they made that uniqueness itself their core product attribute. Likewise, bloggers like Seth Godin and Chris Brogan succeed not just because they are prolific, but also because their voices are so consistently, incessantly theirs—every post, every tweet, every speech, every book.
  • Steve Jobs understood the power of a core community of rabid fans. Everything about Apple is about being part of the "in crowd." But it wasn't just the marketing tactic of snob appeal; Jobs and his team genuinely didn't care about pleasing the masses with their products. They had an instinctive understanding that the route to longer-term success was to make sure that their core constituency's zeal stayed sky high, and that doing so would in turn attract tons of others. This is precisely the logic of a well-developed social media campaign. Find your community (or affinity group, or gang, or tribe, or whatever else you want to call it), engage them in a way that brings value and leadership, be consistent at doing so over time, and never violate the trust that you build in doing so. Do that, and you will succeed. Period.
  • Steve Jobs placed big bets on a few closely related products and constantly improved them over time. As he launched a succession of groundbreaking, wildly popular products over the years, Jobs made sure that they all maintained the mix of beauty, utility, and scarcity that made up the Apple "magic." In the 1990s, despite tough times, he resisted the pressure to go after the high profits that could have come from mass producing lower-end products, like printers and fax machines, holding true to his mantra of "thinking different."

Likewise, the savvy social media marketer understands that while it is a longer-term, more demanding proposition to choose just a few interactive communications technologies and to master them to build consistency and community over time, doing so will ultimately pay huge dividends.

Mr. Jobs, thanks for the great products, the great lessons, and a life well lived.

Eddie Reeves

Eddie Reeves has more than 25 years of success in journalism, politics/public affairs, public relations, and marketing strategy. He is Principal of Reeves Strategy Group, a consultancy that helps corporations, not-for-profit groups, and others design, develop, and implement strategies that help them connect to customers, clients, employees, suppliers, and other key stakeholders—in ways that help drive their organizations to new levels of service, success, and significance. Eddie provides no-nonsense, impactful advice, strategy planning, coaching, counsel, and tactical execution to C-suite leaders of entities that are serious about making a difference and making progress.