This week, social media erupted with news of Apple making a policy reversal for Apple Music, their soon-to-be released music service which allows subscribers to stream music for $10 a month or to download songs for individual sale (much like Spotify).
The original policy revolved around subscribers being able to sign-up to a free 3-month trial period, which is great, but during that period any music streamed would not accumulate royalties to be paid out to the artists, labels, or music publishers who produced it, which is not so great.
And while indie artists seemed the most upset about the policy, it wasn't until music-phenomenon Taylor Swift posted to her Tumblr page about her dismay over the agreement that EVERYONE started to listen.
Swift shared her post to Twitter and her following ensured the controversy spread like wildfire.
To Apple, Love Taylor http://t.co/GN9jiRkqlj- Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) June 21, 2015
It's a well-known fact that Apple's marketing tactics play the minimalist tune, with sleek and simple television commercials and the lack of an official Facebook or Twitter page. So how did Apple know they had a crisis on their hands if they weren't mentioned in these tweets?
Well, like any successful company, Apple knows that just because you don't have a social media presence, that doesn't mean that people aren't talking about you.
Therefore, by keeping a finger on the pulse of social conversations, Apple was able to mitigate this crisis with artists and consumers and teach us a few lessons about social media listening along the way.
First, you must listen
Trending topics and hashtags can help you tune-in to what your community's talking about, but we think it's worth investing a few marketing dollars into a social monitoring tool to get the whole picture.
Monitoring tools can scan tweets, posts, and pins for keywords across social networks to get an accurate view of what people are saying about you when you aren't looking.
Our guess is that Apple has some pretty sophisticated listening tools and was able to learn about Taylor Swift's declaration pretty early on, an important step in being alerted to relevant early warnings.
Next, you must respond
Whether your brand's ears are burning from positive or negative feedback, you must always respond to show that you care and you're listening.
Despite Apple not having an official Twitter page to respond to this issue, a tweet came from one of Apple's senior executives, Eddy Cue.
We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple - Eddy Cue (@cue) June 22, 2015
It's prudent to point out that Cue didn't just give a witty reply to Swift, he also acknowledged the frustration of the indie artists who reached out over the last week about Apple Music's policy.
He gave a sincere and complete apology on behalf of Apple.
Many brands have struggled when needing to apologize on social media; but it's clear that Apple knew they were in the wrong, were ready to apologize, and did it with flair by playing off Swift's original disgruntled article title.
Finally, you must also take action
While your apology may be sincere, it won't mean much unless you take corrective action to back it up.
Not only did Cue's apology allude to the fact that Apple Music will change their music royalties policy, but he sent a follow-up tweet to confirm the change.
Owning your mistakes as a brand shows your strength and allegiance to your audience. In some cases, a social media crisis is a blessing for a brand to demonstrate just how great they are.
But, you must learn from your mistakes
Of course the social media community didn't back off as soon as Apple gave their apology.
There was still a lot of chatter around what else Taylor Swift could help consumers fix about Apple.
Dear Taylor Swift Longer Apple recharging leads please Yours The Entire World - tom jamieson (@jamiesont) June 22, 2015
OK Taylor Swift, now please get Apple to put the jack at the top of the iPhone 6 instead of the bottom.- emily nussbaum (@emilynussbaum) June 22, 2015
Next thing, @taylorswift13, can you make sure Apple never again put a U2 album on my iPhone without asking me? Ta. - Jamie McKelvie (@McKelvie) June 22, 2015
So, in true social media listening guru fashion, it would behoove Apple to respond to messages like this from something like a customer support account or take these reviews in consideration in their next product meeting.
See, even the biggest brands still have a lot to learn.
Have more questions about social media listening? Share them in the comments