Q&As on Twitter, where users ask questions and receive answers from popular profiles, have become an effective way for celebrities, brands and persons of interest to raise awareness of themselves, plus (of course) their products and services.
Usually, the Twitter Q&A goes down pretty well. But it doesn’t work for everybody, as JPMorgan found out to their cost yesterday.
It must have sounded great on paper. Jimmy Lee, one of JPMorgan’s senior bankers who worked closely on Twitter’s IPO, was all set to “take over” @JPMorgan‘s Twitter profile on Thursday, receiving questions under the hashtag #AskJPM.
However, by Wednesday afternoon, thousands of Twitter users had rallied around the #AskJPM hashtag to bombard @JPMorgan – and, by association, Jimmy Lee – with abuse. Indeed, Topsy, which analysed the onslaught, estimated that at least two-thirds of the 80,000 tweets sent during the hashtag were negative.
Here’s a few choice examples:
Do all employees get noise-canceling headphones to mute the sounds of poverty your foreclosures cause, or do only execs get those? #askJPM
— alexis goldstein (@alexisgoldstein) November 13, 2013
#AskJPM Is it true that, while you don't always spit on poor people, when you do, you have perfect aim?
— Charlotte (@LoftusCharlotte) November 13, 2013
Does it feel better paying the biggest bank fines in history so far, or did the satisfaction of the crimes outweigh the fines? #AskJPM
— Schoun (@schoun) November 13, 2013
Sorry we ruined your hashtag event, if you could just apologise for your plunder of the global economy,. I think we'd be even. #askjpm
— lisaansell3 (@lisaansell3) November 14, 2013
Subsequently, JPMorgan threw in the towel.
Tomorrow's Q&A is cancelled. Bad Idea. Back to the drawing board.
— J.P. Morgan (@jpmorgan) November 14, 2013
Why the response? Investment banks haven’t been seen in the best of lights since the 2008 credit crunch, and JPMorgan has faced particularly strong criticism following its $13 billion settlement for mis-selling mortgage-backed securities. Bottom line, you kind of have to wonder what they were expecting from a Twitter Q&A. Welcome sonny? Make yourself at home? Marry my daughter?
“I think companies sometimes forget that social media belongs to the people,” said Debra Williamson, an analyst at E-Marketer, speaking to the FT. “Consumers have control beyond their wildest expectations. Brands spend a lot of money to try to get something positive to go viral – spread a video around or an ad or a tweet – but all it takes is one misstep.”
Indeed, and this tweet…
Does it strike you as odd that your social media team will get blamed internally for this, not the executives who inspire such hate? #AskJPM
— Ned Resnikoff (@resnikoff) November 14, 2013
… raises a very valid point. Namely, who is at fault here? JPMorgan, for thinking this was all going to work out just fine, or their social media or PR team, who quite possibly pitched this? Who, at the very least, didn’t say, upon first hearing about the idea, “OH MY GOD. ARE YOU INSANE?”
So what’s the lesson here? It’s two-fold, I think. One, people have long memories, and don’t take too lightly to megabanks trying to be their pal, especially when they’ve screwed millions over in the past. And two, while there’s definitely something on Twitter for everybody, what works for one type of profile, one kind of celebrity or one sector of industry, won’t necessarily pay off for you. Alas, sometimes the only way to find that out is to pick up the tab. Which, fittingly, is exactly what JPMorgan has had to do here. Again.
(J.P. Morgan image: Recuerdos de Pandora via Flickr.)