by Betsy Noll
Anytime you ask your audience for them to speak up about you, understand that the loudest voices are the ones yelling about your faults. J.P. Morgan didn’t take that into consideration when they launched their #AskJPM Twitter campaign back in 2013.
The initial tweet informed their Twitter followers and the like to join a group chat hosted by a head figure in the bank. Their target audience was initially students, with a focus on career advice.:
Though their motives seemed harmless with the Q&A, dozens of Internet trolls came out to play regardless. Hours later the hashtag was roaring on Twitter, but not in the way J.P. Morgan’s VC, Jimmy Lee Jr., was hoping. Huffington Post says, “Innocent enough to make for a fun little Q+A, right? Wrong, because it wasn’t long until it all spiraled desperately out of control.”
The campaign centered around the idea that, if you get to know the executives of the company maybe you will have greater trust in them, and thus the bank as a whole. The New York Times said, “The original idea — which had been kicked around the firm over the last few weeks, according to a person briefed on the matter — was to come up with an out-of-the-box way to use social media.”
After the first shot was fired, a battle ensued with one major theme; Insult the messenger. Lee was attacked on all levels by a variety of participants. He put his head out there, and he got chopped. This #socialfail didn’t totally sink like the Titanic as they did create buzz, however, there’s no doubt that their PR team had some cleaning up to do.
Had their PR team done any research before this campaign, they would have immediately recognized the heat their audience was feeling for a certain Jimmy Lee Jr. Even if they had realized this soon enough, the way they handled the campaign was much like that of a lost puppy. My advice, stay away from the Twitter Q&As. While this does amp up user-generated content and impressions, it does so in just the way J.P. Morgan had hoped to avoid. The risk here definitely outweighs the reward.
AdWeek had no trouble jumping on them about this one. They even compared them to McDonald’s well-known social media fail: “It’s a touch reminiscent of last year’s #McDStories debacle.” McDonald’s had started that hashtag with the hope that its followers would share nostalgic stories about Saturday-afternoon Happy Meals with their grandparents. Yeah, no.” Much like the other industry sources, AdWeek sounded embarrassed for the company and wished they had never taken that leap.
ABC News agreed saying, “Like many other companies JPMorgan Chase was trying a newfangled thing called Twitter to engage customers and leverage the bank’s brand. But like McDonald’s and other companies before it, the bank was unprepared for the unpredictable and downright nasty response from cyberspace.”
Within 24 hours of posting the original tweet, some 18,000+ tweets of user-generated content aimed like a fully-loaded cannon, was pointed at Lee. He took some pretty deep and low-blows, to the point where the Q&A needed to be called off. A white flag flew from those at J.P. Morgan Chase just hours after the attempted launch:
NBC News weighed in on this situation in an article about failing to control content online. It was no question how they felt about J.P. Morgan’s missed opportunity. They questioned how well they knew their audience and said, “Clearly, JP Morgan didn’t realize the level of lingering anger over the role played by big banks in the financial crisis — and a feeling that the people responsible had not been taken to task for their actions.” A lesson learned for far more than just those at J.P. Morgan, this bludgeoning will go down as one of the quickest #socialfails in ad history.