Not another social media #fail

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!) 

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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!

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Happy birthday to you…

On 3 December 2012 the humble text turned 20 years old.

Back in December 1992 engineer Neil Papworth created history by sending the world’s first ever text. The message simply read ‘Merry Christmas’ and was sent to Neil’s friend, Richard Jarvis, who worked as a Vodafone director at the time.

Unfortunately, Richard couldn’t return the festive greeting from his clunky Orbital 901 phone as it had no way of inputting text.

Indeed, it wasn’t until one year later that Finnish phone-maker Nokia debuted the first mobile phone that was capable of sending texts.

Early text messages — which had to be painstakingly entered on numerical keypads and typed out fully — were free, but could only be sent between two people on the same network and this would remain the standard for quite a few years.

Today, over 8 trillion text messages are sent around the world each year, no doubt aided by the success of reality TV shows, where viewers are asked to vote by text for their favourite contestant.

Although once viewed as mainly the preserve of younger users, texting has increased in popularity to become the de facto mode of communication for almost all age groups.

Over the years the SMS (short messaging service) has been hailed for its efficiency and ease of use but also blamed for everything from sore thumbs to the decline of conversation and writing standards! At just 190 bytes and 160 characters, the modest text message isn’t the most glamorous or elaborate form of communication, and that’s probably a major reason why it’s become so widespread.

Nevertheless, although the number of texts sent each year continues to grow worldwide, there are signs that in more developed markets at least, its usage is beginning to decline. The widespread popularity of social media and the increasing adoption of smartphones has given people a whole host of new ways to communicate with each other. Why send a text when you can tweet, iMessage, BBM, WhatsApp, or post a status update?

So even though the humble text is only 20 years old, will it live to see its 30s? Indeed, what other ways will we be communicating with each in another 20 years’ time?

Did you know…

According to the Guinness World Records, Melissa Thompson (UK), holds the record for sending the fastest text message on a touch screen phone.

The phone used was a Samsung Galaxy S, with SWYPE technology. The text consisted of 160 characters or 26 words and she sent the following text in just 25.94 seconds on 22 August 2010.

“The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.”

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