Apple Finally on Twitter?

Although the iPhone and the Mac are extremely popular devices for using social media, Apple (s aapl) is one of the only major technology companies not to have a clear presence on Twitter or Facebook. A hint arose yesterday that Apple may finally be peering outside its walled garden. Apple Senior Vice President of iPhone Software Scott Forstall signed up for Twitter and has a “verified account” to show he is indeed the Scott Forstall from Apple.

While Scott already has thousands of followers, he’s currently only following Conan O’Brien, who recently tweeted “I found a huge design flaw in my new iPhone. People get angry when I talk on it during a funeral!”

Behind the times

While Apple makes the products that we all use to get involved in social media, the company itself is way behind the curve in this area. Although Apple provides marketing tweets from such accounts as iTunesTrailers and iTunesMusic, it has yet to use Twitter or Facebook to respond to customer concerns about Apple products. In sharp contrast to Apple, its U.S. partner for the iPhone, AT&T (s att), has a great presence in social media. Tweet a problem to @attcustomercare and its crack team resolves the problem in a jiffy. Post on itsĀ Facebook wall and receive similar executive class service. Personally, they’ve solved my problems on more than one occasion.

[inline-ad align=”right”]When people complain on Twitter about a surly Genius, or a botched online order, the voice of Apple is silent. Steve Jobs might respond to some of your select emails, but apparently if you tweet instead of write him directly, you won’t be heard by Steve or for that matter anyone at Apple. Don’t even think of making him your friend on Facebook or connecting with him on LinkedIn! Of course, Apple employees can be involved in social media on a personal level, although obviously they can’t speak on Apple’s behalf. Their reluctance to be involved in social media is atypical of the tech industry.

Why has it taken so long?

Apple likes having strict control over communication, with one voice and one venue for communication: Apple’s PR department. Unlike other companies that encourage their executive staff and customer service personnel to go out and meet their customers and address their concerns, Apple stays away. This may simply be because Apple doesn’t think it has to. It considers the Genius Bar and its Tech Support department to be the proper way of getting your concerns addressed. While Apple has lots of informal fans and followers on social media, Apple has yet to get involved in this international conversation, until perhaps today.

Could Scott’s Twitter account be a new method of damage control for Apple and possibly even help iPhone owners with problems? As “Antennagate” spun out of control, Steve Job’s response “you are holding it wrong” conflicted with Apple’s official statement that it’s not a hardware problem, but a software issue. Thus it seems logical that the head of iPhone software might be the first official verified account from Apple. Why verify with Twitter unless you are going to speak on behalf of Apple? Imagine how different the problem might have been perceived if people weren’t using social media like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs to amplify and broadcast their their concerns? People are shouting because it doesn’t seem like Apple is listening.

If Apple had been fully engaged in the world of social media, would Antennagate have reached the level it did? Possibly not. iPhone owners would feel the issues were being addressed and Apple was working on the problem. Not responding to your customers concerns except through random CEO emails and rare formal press releases is not the way to do public relations, unless of course you work for Toyota or BP. I encourage Scott and his team to step up to the plate and start addressing not just the antenna concerns, but the variety of other problems iPhones owners have.

Alternatively, this could all be an elaborate hoax and a testament to user frustration that Apple isn’t addressing their concerns.

If you have a problem with your iPhone, tweet @forstall and you might just get a response. And if that doesn’t work, you can simply follow my previous guide on getting satisfaction from Apple.

So what should Scott’s first tweet be? What will your first tweet to him be?