Apple’s latest hire: A social media expert for the company with almost no social media presence

Another day, another high-profile executive headed to Cupertino. Apple(s appl) has hired social media expert Musa Tariq, who previously worked at Nike(s nke) and Burberry. Tariq’s official title, according to his Twitter bio, will be digital marketing director for Apple Retail, which likely means he will be reporting to his old coworker at Burberry, current Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts.
Tariq joining Apple was first reported by 9to5Mac and confirmed by Tariq on Twitter. It’s the latest in a string of high-profile hires for the company: Apple recently added people with expertise that falls outside Apple’s traditional areas, like luxury goods executives and medical device engineers. Those hires point to Apple releasing a health and fitness-focused wearable device. Tariq worked on marketing for Nike’s Fuelband, which would give him experience with a very similar wearable device to the one Apple is expected to launch this fall.
But why does Apple want a social media professional? As a company, Apple has never been big at direct communication. Aside from a few iTunes-related Twitter and Facebook accounts, there aren’t many Apple social media accounts. Even the Twitter account @apple has never tweeted and it’s unclear if Apple even controls it. One of the first things Tariq did at Nike was push to bring all social media in-house, instead of delegating it to ad agencies. I suspect something similar is in the cards for Apple, although maybe you shouldn’t expect Apple to start posting regular updates, as Tariq has tweeted that his advice to most brands would be to post less.
Taking this hire into account, Apple could be gearing up for a big marketing push for the iWatch, which could include more than just display ads and commercials on television. For instance, last month there was a minor social media kerfuffle surrounding hidden Nike vending machines that accepted Fuelpoints, the Fuelband’s fitness metric.
On the other hand, the Tariq hire might just be another sign that Apple is evolving as a company. Recently, Apple hasn’t been happy with its long-time marketing firm, TBWA Media Arts Lab. Apple’s been making its own ads while also bringing advertising staff in-house. It makes sense that Apple would want someone in charge of social media internally, especially as it adds Beats, a separate consumer-facing brand with high-profile celebrity endorsements. Or this hire could be as simple as new retail head Ahrendhts going out and getting her old buddy to help her out on the retail front. It’s worth keeping an eye on Apple social media to see if its practices change in the coming months.