Apple Finally Joined Instagram. Here’s How It Plans to Use It

Tech giant embraces social, to a degree

Apple is highlighting iPhone users like @_xst, whose work is a bit reminiscent of the old iPod silhouettes.
Headshot of Tim Nudd

While most companies have been tweeting and Facebooking for years, Apple has remained largely on the sidelines.

It has an @apple Twitter page, but has never tweeted from it. It has a Facebook page, but it’s blank. (Rather than post to those pages, it uses the accounts to buy ads on those services.) Apple does have a large social presence for Apple Music on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, seeing the value there, given the multimedia strengths of the platforms. It also has a presence for Apple support in social.

But otherwise, it’s been notoriously ambivalent. Until now.

This morning, the flagship Apple brand joined Instagram. It will surely attract gobs of followers in the coming days, but rather than signaling a new social strategy for the tech giant, the move is instead designed, at least at first, simply to extend an existing ad campaign—“Shot on iPhone,” which has been running since 2015 and will now get the full Instagram treatment.

Much as the “Shot on iPhone” billboards, print ads and video spots do, the @apple Instagram account will feature content captured by iPhone users, curated by Apple. Each post is credited back to the Instagram account of its creator. To start, Apple has made eight posts, each of which feature content from five users—so, 40 users overall.

It also posted this film announcing the new account:

Here’s an example of one of the content posts:

That Apple is finally joining Instagram may be a surprise, but the content strategy really isn’t. As a brand with a tightly controlled brand voice, Apple has long resisted getting its hands dirty in social, where spontaneity and honest connections are everything. Using social simply to extend a traditional campaign is about as conservative as it gets. (It’s how most marketers used social at the very beginning, and many continue to—usually badly.)

“Shot on iPhone” obviously does have a community element at its core, in its celebration of user creativity. In that sense, the campaign is already “social,” and bringing it to Instagram was the logical next step. But it’s social in a way that’s pretty airless—risk free and heavily manufactured.

Whether Apple will ever really take the plunge into social media—and build something compelling with social at the core, rather than just linking to playlists and posting nice complilation videos of photography—remains to be seen.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.