#FAILFriday: iTunes Ping

By: Austin Jensen

FAIL

At the rate that the social media platform outlook has been changing and advancing lately, it is hard to remember a social media platform like, Ping.  Ping was introduced in September of 2010 by Apple.  Ping saw popularity right out of the gate, but soon saw a steady decline until it was officially was scrapped in September of 2012.  For me, it is hard to believe that anything that was dreamed up by Steve Jobs would fail.  It is a testament to Apple’s branding team that 99.9% of what Apple produces will sell off the shelves.  It is because of this that I agree with Job’s decision to attempt to break into the social realm.  He obviously knew that he had an unbeatable brand, but he clearly did not understand the dynamics that go into a proper social media platform these days.  Let’s take a look at a few things that may have led to the end of Ping.

apple_ping_090910

1) The system did not recognize it’s customer:  The main idea of Ping was a social network designed around the music industry.  Users were able to follow their friends as well as artists that they like.  Users would then be able to see what songs their friends are listening to and they can share music with their friends as well.  You could also communicate with your friends through short messages.  Sounds pretty cool right?  There were a couple things that were done incorrectly here.  First of all, Ping would recommend artists for your to follow.  However, Ping did not take into account your taste for music.  People love when things are tailored to them.  For example, if I follow a couple country music artists on Twitter, they will recommend that I follow other artists that are similar to them.  Most of the time I end of following them, because I actually do like their music.  This is something that was lacking within Ping.  Brands work very hard these days to prove that they know each of their customers on an individual basis, to make them feel special!

know-your-users

2) Was Ping a social network or a sales site?  Users constantly complained about the interface of Ping.  It was pitched as a social network where users can connect with friends through music.  Ping saw this as a chance to continue to boost iTunes and would relentlessly bombard its users with links to “Buy” music.  The beauty of social networks that have succeeded such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, is that they do not try and sell you anything.  Yes, on some you can advertise, but these advertisements can be easily avoided and scrolled past.  These 3 social media platforms have succeeded, because of their overlying commitment to providing a world class community of interaction.  They view their site as a social platform first, and advertisers come second.  I would probably get very frustrated with Facebook if they were constantly asking me to interact with certain advertisements.  That is where Ping went wrong, they should have focused more on the social experience that their audience wanted rather than pushing users to buy.

dollar-signs

3) Ping’s lack of social interaction and engagement.  This was possibly the issue that hurt Ping the most.  Like I said before they were not focused on the social aspect of their social network.  Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn make it so easy for users to interact with each other and share anything that they want to share.  I can go onto Facebook and share the link to a YouTube music video for my friends to watch.  With Ping, I would only be able to share 90 seconds of the music that I had just bought.  This is because Ping was set up with sales in mind first and foremost.  If they allowed their users to share the entire song then why would their friends also go out and buy that song?  That is the way they thought, but it is not the way that successful social networks think.

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There were several other factors that led to the downfall of Ping, but these were 3 of the major factors.  Once users saw Ping as not having their wants in mind they quickly fled the social network.  Music is something that has withstood the test of time as a way for people to show their true personality.  Music is a way for people who may not know each other to connect.  For those reasons, the idea for Ping was a good one, but the way users were able to interact with Ping was not anywhere close to what is expected from a social network these days.  Over the next decade we will undoubtedly witness several social networking platforms rise and fall.  I think that to succeed  you have to trash the idea of beating out Facebook, because chances are you cannot.  Try something like Ping that puts a different spin on social networking, but always remember the main goal of your audience.  A social network should work first to encourage sharing and interaction, not sales.

Do you think Ping could have hung in there if they would have adjusted to be more like a true social networking platform?  As always, I would love to hear your questions and comments!

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