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Apple is giving its social media department a significant shot in the arm this week. The Cupertino-based company has hired Musa Tariq, the former social media chief for both Nike and Burberry. At Nike, Tariq ran general social media marketing as well as social media partnerships with athletes across all Nike product platforms, and at Burberry he led “strategy and innovation” for social media…

tariq

Apple currently utilizes several forms for marketing, but the company’s social media presence has not been up to par with some of the viral marketing campaigns led by its competitors in recent years. Apple currently runs Facebook Pages accounts for iTunes and the App Store, Twitter accounts for several iTunes-related services, and top executives such as Tim Cook, Angela, Ahrendts, Phil Schiller, and Eddy Cue have semi-active Twitter feeds.

But beyond that, Apple’s approach to social media-based marketing has been limited at best. At Nike, Tariq boosted the Oregon-based company’s product portfolio and athlete relationships via social media, and at Burberry, Tariq created the fashion brand’s social media imprint in China and led social media for the firm’s famous annual London Fashion Show events. With this newfound expertise on its staff, it seems likely that Apple’s social media presence will grow rapidly in the coming months and years. Tariq confirmed his new role with Apple on his personal Twitter account, and his title at the company is “Digital Marketing Director, Apple.”

To get an idea of where Apple could take social media, it is worth looking at one of Tariq’s most notable campaigns. One of Tariq’s most critically acclaimed social media campaigns for Burberry was the “Tweetwalk.” This Tweetwalk campaign shared images of outfits soon to hit the London Fashion Show runway in their backstage form. Analysis of this campaign revealed that it significantly boosted talk of both Burberry’s products and the Fashion Show. Tariq also created a campaign called “Acoustic,” which utilized YouTube to showcase musicians singing acoustic versions of popular songs (video above).

At Nike, Tariq led a campaign with athletes to tease a new shoe by creating videos describing the shoe without showing the actual design. Tariq’s fame within the social media community was also exemplified by multiple articles reporting on his 2011 move from Burberry to Nike. Many of the reports noted that his hire was a significant investment for Nike and a major loss for Burberry.

Besides his expertise in social media and his abilities to improve Apple’s marketing efforts, there are other reasons why this is a notable hire for Apple. First, Tariq comes from Burberry, the former employer of recently appointed Apple retail and online stores chief Angela Ahrendts. According to a source, Tariq reported directly to Ahrendts and Burberry and he was instrumental in working with Ahrendts on growing Burberry’s global brand. It is likely that Tariq will work closely with Ahrendts at Apple on her ambitions for taking Apple’s retail precense in the future. As a source said,  Ahrendts “loves [Tariq] to bits in a colleague kind of way.”

This hire also continues Apple CEO (and Nike Director) Tim Cook’s approach to just picking Nike employees up left and right for his own company. Today’s hire follows the poaching of a pair of high-profile Nike FuelBand engineers. It is certainly possible that Tariq’s work on social media marketing could tie into Apple’s marketing push for the upcoming fashion and fitness-oriented wearable band. Apple recently hired watchmaker Tag Heuer’s Vice President of Marketing to work on the future wearable product, and sources previously said that Apple has been demonstrating the device to high-profile athletes.

Lastly, this new Apple hire represents a significant departure in the company’s thinking about social media. Amid an on-going breakup with marketing firm Media Arts Lab, Apple Senior Vice President of Marketing Phil Schiller dismissed social media tracking as something that he can just control himself:

I think paying money for social media tracking tools is nuts. It is easy to track social media, I do it every day, there are lots of summary feeds, groups, and notification tools built right in to the social networking sites, all free. (i think the guys at samsung sat around a coffee table watching Twitter and Facebook feeds and didn’t need to pay for anything in the example below).

It seems that this philosophy has now changed, and Apple has significant plans in store for its future marketing efforts.

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One Response to “Apple hires Angela Ahrendts’ confidant & former Nike exec to lead social media efforts”

  1. By all accounts a sound move by Apple

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