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How Apple Can Fix Ping

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I got an email today that made me a little bit sad. It was from Apple (s aapl), and it was about how great Ping is. It left the distinct impression that many don’t agree. An email won’t convince people Ping is worthwhile. So what would?

Play to Your Own Advantages

Many have argued that there isn’t really room for a social music network based around music, what with, and Myspace (s nws) already occupying that niche. I don’t think that’s true, especially considering the fact that Apple has unfettered access to the iTunes library in building its contender.

But iTunes music isn’t the only resource available to Apple, and it hasn’t done a very good job of utilizing the other tools available to it. I’m thinking mostly about its iOS devices. The iPhone, iPod touch and iPad are invaluable in terms of the way people use social media these days. Facebook acknowledges that, as we saw during its mobile-focused press event this past Wednesday.

Ping Its Own App

Facebook isn’t the only example. The iPhone is the sole platform for one of the hottest new social media startups out there, Instagram. In case you haven’t heard of it yet, Instagram allows quick and easy photo-sharing through an iPhone app, and only through an iPhone app. You can’t play unless you have one (though people can view your photos in any browser), at least for the time being.

Ping has presence on the iPhone, but only as part of the iTunes app, and with very limited functionality. Why not partner with some of the more successful music-related apps on the iOS platform to make Ping genuinely useful? Shazam-type music identification comes to mind, as does the ability to share and create playlists, and broadcast what’s currently playing on your device.

Since Ping is meant as a means to boost iTunes sales, I’m not saying Apple should drive an impassable divide between the two. Make track links open in iTunes, or let people buy directly from the Ping app in the iTunes store. As a value-add feature for iTunes itself, Ping clearly isn’t interesting to consumers. And why would it be? Would you use Twitter if it was just something Amazon had created and awkwardly tacked on to its online store?

Put Ping on the Web

I talked about the success of Instagram as an iPhone-only social network, but I think Ping needs a desktop presence, especially if it’s going to achieve Apple’s goals of driving iTunes sales. So put it on the web, not in iTunes. Social networks succeed because users can access them wherever. How often have you quickly signed in to Facebook at a friend’s house to check your messages? Try signing in to Ping on a friend’s Mac. It can be done, but not easily, and not from any browser.

Don’t take away iTunes integration. I’m glad I can Like things from my library, but don’t limit it to that. In fact, provide APIs that let artists post Ping Like links on tracks and albums listed on their own sites. If you want real reach, you don’t insist users come to you, and to an application they have to install and run outside of their browser, no less.

Separate the Ping Brand

Apple is a marquee brand, so why would the company ever want to make Ping its own distinct entity? Because Apple doesn’t mean “social networking” to anyone, and it’s harder to overcome that than it is to start a new brand association.

Ping is aimed at music fans. So leave it at that. Change the badging and branding of Ping, and treat it more like a close partnership than an Apple product. That way, it’s more likely to reach music fans as a general category, not music fans who are also Apple hardware users, which is the much smaller group it’s talking to now.

Instead of funneling already loyal customers to its store, Apple will be reaching a new audience who might not even use iTunes or Apple devices. Ping could be a means of introducing them to the wonderful world of Cupertino, but not if people see it as an Apple sales pitch first, and as a network, only a distant second.

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5 Responses to “How Apple Can Fix Ping”

  1. Another problem of Ping-iTunes app is that not all my friends listen to music through iTunes. Actually few of them are! What’s the point of a social network when your friends aren’t on it?

    Another Ping problem is that you can’t listen to an entire song without buying it. What’s the point of knowing what music my friends like, if I can’t listen to it myself? On or spotify I CAN listen to my friends’ favourite music or playlists.

    I don’t want to preview every song and then immediately buy it or skip to the next preview.

    Ping still feels too much like a glorified iTunes Store with a few ‘friends’ buttons here and there. Using a social network as a sales instrument is the best way to make it fail miserably.

  2. I’ll tell you what would instantly fix ping. 1) scrobbling of some sort, 2) artist pages with comments and free music and videos 3) an online presence. having it isolated in iTunes is awful because the online services are so damn slow.

    Really it needs to be redesigned from the ground up. The idea is good. But the execution was 100% wrong.

  3. I would love to see gifting of playlists … remember mix-tapes, burning CDs, why not allow users to create mix-tapes that gift songs to their friends? The idea of posting what you are listening to to Facebook / Twitter is nice too. It would also be great to have recomendations based on what you are listening to now and who you share your information with … think Pandora but with purchasing.

  4. Ping feels too much like an advertisement. You subscribe to your favorite artists and get updates about when to buy their new single. I agree that it should have it’s own app, because i can’t even access it through my iPad. In it should have a check in aspect like facebook( connect it to your iPhone and you could get ping advertisements/. Coupons based on where you are, as well as a setting where people can see what you are listening to in real time. (obviously u could disable it for privacy if you wanted) also during the start-up before a ton of people have adopted let users hooks Twitter up to ping so when you post on Twitter it appears in Ping. That way there are a lot of updates to peoples accounts even if they are not consistently logging in to Twitter.