Yesterday social media erupted with news of Apple making a policy reversal for Apple Music, their soon-to-be new music service which allows subscribers to stream music for $10 a month or all users to download songs for individual sale (much like Spotify).

The original policy revolved around subscribers being able to sign up with a free 3-month trial period (which is great) and 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 this policy last week, it wasn’t until music-phenomenon Taylor Swift posted to her Tumblr page about her dismay in the agreement that EVERYONE started to listen.

Swift shared her post to Twitter and her following spread the facts like wildfire.

It is 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 may not have a social presence, it 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 yesterday and teach us a few lessons about social media listening along the way.

First, you must listen.
Trending topics and hashtags can help in listening to what your community is talking about, but we think it is worth a few marketing dollars to also invest in a social monitoring tool.

These 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, but that doesn’t mean your researched tools won’t give you the same early warnings.

Next, you must respond.
Whether your brand 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.

It is prudent to point out that Cue didn’t just give a witty reply to Taylor 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 is 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.

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!

About the Author: Deanna Zaucha is the Senior Specialist of Content Marketing for Webs and Pagemodo, and also manages our social media presence. She can be found on a dance floor, or on her iPhone keeping up with trends in marketing and tech. Get more from Deanna on Pagemodo’s Blog and Twitter.


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