JPMorgan suffered a severe public spanking after trying to host a town hall Q&A on Twitter. Here’s what you can learn from their mistake.
Monday, November 6, will be a day remembered by both JPMorgan and Twitter for some time to come, and not for the same reasons. At 9 am that morning, Twitter went public, with underwriting help from JPMorgan. A few minutes later, JPMorgan sent out a tweet from its corporate account unrelated to the IPO.
The tweet seemed harmless enough. The bank announced a live Twitter Q&A about leadership and career advice hosted by one of its executives. Participants were encouraged to submit questions using the hashtag #AskJPM.
One week later, JPMorgan sent out a reminder tweet: “JPMorgan VC Jimmy Lee is taking over @JPMorgan on 11/14. Tweet Qs using #AskJPM.”
While hardly anyone noticed the original tweet, the second one spread like wildfire. Within 24 hours, there were 18,669 tweets using the #AskJPM hashtag, and none of them were what JPMorgan had hoped for. Twitter users around the world hijacked the hashtag, using the opportunity to blast the bank’s ethics (or lack thereof):
- Does the sleaze wash off with a regular shower, or do you have to use something special like babies tears? #AskJPM
- I have Mortgage Fraud, Market Manipulation, Credit Card Abuse, Libor Rigging and Predatory Lending. Am I diversified? #AskJPM
- Did you have a specific number of people’s lives you needed to ruin before you considered your business model a success? #AskJPM
- When Jamie Dimon eats babies are they served rare? I understand anything above medium-rare is considered gauche. #AskJPM
- Do you have a secret jail in your offices so your executives get at least one chance to see the inside of one? #AskJPM
- What’s the best way to get blood stains out of a clown suit? #AskJPM
- What’s it like working with Mexican drug cartels? Do they tip? #AskJPM
- Do your clothes fit better since you don’t have the added weight of a soul? #AskJPM
- Can I have my house back? #AskJPM
( Read More: BofA’s ‘Tone Deaf Robot’ Sends Consumers Boilerplate Tweets )
This is the kind of vitriolic backlash that gives PR people nightmares. Not that JPMorgan doesn’t deserve the criticism. The bank has faced a raft of criminal probes including one into possible bribery in Asia, and another examining its relationship with Ponzi scheme kingpin Bernard Madoff. JPMorgan has been negotiating an agreement with the U.S. to resolve multiple mortgage-related scandals, and two ex-employees were indicted for trying to cover up a record-breaking trading loss last year.
JPMorgan quickly realized that its Twitter experiment had turned into a Frankensteinian monster it could no longer control, and called of the Q&A within hours of the second tweet.
Journalists and financial industry pundits snickered right along with the sophomoric gaggle on Twitter. Thousands of articles and blog posts took delight in rehashing (literally) the insults hurled at JPMorgan. And yet very few had anything constructive to add. The spirit of most posts: “Tee hee, look at the big bank who doesn’t get social media.” It’s not helpful.
( Read More: Enthusiasm For Social Media Dampening In Financial Industry )
8 Things You Can Learn From JPMorgan’s Mistake
1. Big brands make big targets. The bigger the brand, the harder they fall. Anytime a company with 1+ million customers steps onto a public stage, they had better expect hecklers. McDonald’s sponsored the hashtag #McDStories in January 2012, seeking positive responses about dining at its restaurants. Instead, respondents joked about obesity and dog food, and the firm halted the promotion less than two hours after it started.
2. Always consider the “worst case” perspective in social campaigns. Too many social media planners wear rose colored glasses. They can only envision the positive outcomes — more ‘Likes,’ followers and brand engagement. Don’t fall victim to this trap. As with any business initiative, you must understand your downside. Social media can be used to tear a brand apart as easily as it is used to build your online reputation up.
3. Twitter is raw, uncontrolled and unfiltered. You can’t script interactions with the public. As Emily Greenhouse with The New Yorker writes, “Pro-brand messages on social media are likelier to be spontaneous, even serendipitous eruptions, than to be traditional campaigns orchestrated by paid P.R. mavens.”
The internet can be a cruel world, where douchebags and trolls flourish. If your brand management team is thin-skinned, maybe social channels aren’t the best medium for you. Because no matter how perfectly you think you run your organization… no matter how awesome you think your service is… no matter what your Net Promoter Scores may be telling you… there will be always be an angry mob ready to skewer you over the slightest misstep.
( Read More: Tweet This… 1 In 5 Banks Are Twitter Quitters )
4. Don’t join the party while you’re in hot water. It’s like the politician who wants to have a press conference about his jobs initiative the day after getting busted with a hooker. No one wants to hear what you have to say. Indeed, no one even wants to look at you.
“Twitter is like a party where you can’t just show up and say it’s yours and take over,” says Sean Womack, SVP of Marketing and Production at Touchstorm. “You don’t walk in and say ‘Hey, JPMorgan in the house! Ask me a question.’ without first looking at who’s in the room.”
Matt Taibbi, the Rolling Stone journalist responsible for coining the term “vampire squid, chalks up the JPMorgan Twitter meltdown to the folly of corporate hubris. “Only on Wall Street would a bank that’s about to pay out the biggest settlement in the history of settlements engage the public, expecting ordinary people to sincerely ask one of their top-decision makers for career advice,” he says. “The notion that this was their idea of reaching out to the public in a moment of public relations crisis – we’ll take questions now on how you can become just as successful as us! – was doomed to be hilarious.”
You can’t tell people “we’re ready to listen” if you can’t handle what they have to say. If you are going through a massive reputation crisis like JPMorgan, it might be better to go dark on social channels. If you aren’t ready to confront the issues that everyone wants to talk about, then stay out of the spotlight.
5. Your hashtags may get hijacked. You can put months of planning into your social media campaign, only to watch it go down in flames as your hashtag gets hijacked with snark and sarcasm. If you aren’t ready to see your hashtags used by the wrong people in the wrong way, don’t use them. Hashtags carry risk.
6. People hate banks. They always will, and there is nothing you can really do about it. Some folks will take every chance to vent their frustrations about banking — particularly if you lob the opportunity onto a social network. Many financial brands have forgotten that most consumers will never “love” banking, and that consumers have little desire to “engage in a deeper relationship” with their financial provider. It’s the nature of running a service that’s essentially become a commoditized utility.
7. If you want to get treated nicely online, don’t behave badly in the real world. This is the same kind of basic lesson people learn in kindergarten — you know, “The Golden Rule.” You In other words, don’t behave like greedy criminals if you want people to love you. Alas, this is a lesson big banks stubbornly resist. The pressure to hit quarterly profits cause them to do some ridiculously stupid things that land them in big trouble… and then they wonder why trust levels plummet?!
8. Walk away from bad ideas. Professional creative people who are paid for their ideas know there are two critical keys to success. First, the only way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas, because most of the ideas you’re going to have are bad. Second, you have to be willing to walk away from bad ideas. Just because you’ve invested a bunch of time and energy into something doesn’t mean you have to see it all the way through to the end. This is the one thing JPMorgan got right.