The perils of social media were laid bare once more when a planned question and answer session on Twitter with the American investment bank JPMorgan Chase & Co backfired badly for the company.
No doubt attempting to appear au courant with all things marketing and digital related, the bank asked Twitter users to send in questions via the network to its vice chairman Jimmy Lee with the hashtag #AskJPM. Jimmy was there, as the PR agents put it, to “answer your questions on leadership and life”.
However, the idea soon descended into farce with most people using the upcoming “event” as the perfect opportunity to mock the company and make their hostile feelings about JPMorgan well known.
A woman who said she was a community organiser and “next gen freedom fighter” asked if Mr Lee thought it was “ok to outright lie, cheat and steal”. “Matt” wanted to know Mr Lee’s favourite type of whale, while another user known as “Guerrilla Educator” asked if anyone in Mr Lee’s family had ever been foreclosed upon.
The user “Wu- Tang Financial” pretty much summed things up nicely when he loudly asked: “IS IT A FAIR ASSUMPTION THAT YO SOCIAL MEDIA TEAM DID NOT PROPERLY PROTECT YA NECK?”
The event, scheduled for lunchtime today, was quickly cancelled by the company before it had even officially begun, who admitted that it was a “bad idea” (well at least they were honest!)
Ironically, JPMorgan was an underwriter of Twitter’s recent initial public offering of stock so one would have presumed they knew exactly what they were getting into. Besides, banks are hardly the most loved of institutions at even the best of times so the level of hostility directed towards JPMorgan should hardly have come as a surprise.
A Q&A session with British Gas in October unleashed a similar level of loathing by the public and made world headlines for the company for all the wrong reasons. And who can forget last year, when a McDonald’s Twitter promotion using the hashtag #McDstories was hijacked by customers who used it to spread their horror stories of the fast food giant across the social networking site.
The British Monetary Policy Committee (who?) also had a Q&A Twitter session recently. Thankfully this passed off slightly better, presumably because no one really had a clue what to ask about monetary policy or quantitative easing.
The lesson? While Twitter and social media have powerful benefits for companies it needs to be remembered that social media is also a two-way conversation between a company AND its customers and it can be a very public and easy place for companies to get things wrong. The seemingly best of ideas can quickly turn into the stuff of PR nightmares.
A company always needs to have clear social media objectives and to have a well-defined plan in place too. Having a well resourced team of social media experts is also important. And remember, just because everyone else seems to be doing something on social media doesn’t mean you need to too!