JPMorgan had a bit of a public relations nightmare Wednesday when the #AskJPM hashtag it designated for its planned Twitter question and answer session was hijacked by a storm of users furious with the bank for its perceived role in the financial crisis of 2008.
The bile lobbed at JPMorgan (click here for some of the best zingers) was so great that the bank ultimately canceled vice chairman Jimmy Lee’s online chat with the public.
While the hashtag hijacking was certainly an obvious outcome to people who follow controversial brands on social media (remember McDonald’s ill-fated #McDStories?), the truth is that being a bank brand on Twitter isn’t exactly easy these days.
Not when many Americans are still reeling from the financial collapse and more than half of them still feel the government hasn’t done enough to punish the bankers they think are responsible for it. To top it off, financial institutions have the added challenge of trying to have casual conversations on social media while working within the legal restrictions of what they can and can’t say.
We talked with several social media and branding experts to get their takes on just how banks can interact with the public online without walking into a deluge of populist anger. Here’s what they had to say:
Sean Womack, SVP of Product Development at Touchstorm: Womack says JPMorgan erred by trying to approach the open-ended forum of Twitter, in which many people talk to many other people at the same time, in the same way they are used to approaching traditional advertising, in which one brand talks to a large group of people. In his view, JPMorgan didn’t totally understand that it wasn’t only talking to their customers.
“Twitter is like a party where you can’t just show up and say it’s yours and take over. 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.”
Victor Pineiro, Strategy Director at Big Spaceship: Pineiro says JPMorgan was likely taking its cue from the success celebrities have had doing Ask Me Anything (AMA) question-and-answer sessions on Reddit. But while these conversations sometimes win people good will for transparency, oftentimes controversial speakers find themselves in the cross-hairs in a way that didn’t expect. Instead, he says, brands with less-than-perfect reputations might want to use social media in ways that focus more on adding value for the people who are already their customers than on winning over new people with conversational chatter.
“You see a lot of social businesses that are more about utility than anything else. These brands are mostly about couponing, and don’t tap into the conversation and feel the need to talk about the holidays coming up. I think there’s a lot of appreciation for that when people are finding these brands who try to force their way into the conversation fairly annoying.”
Jamie Gutfreund, Chief Strategy Officer at Creative Artists Agency’s The Intelligence Group: Gutfreund has written extensively about the consumer behaviour of millennials, a group that makes up a large portion of the Twitter audience and that she says is more likely to reject companies whose ethics don’t align with their own. She pointed to American Express as an example of how a financial brand can provide value to these young people by offering discounts based around various hashtags and creating the Passion Project to help fund the creative endeavours they care about. Gutfreund says that with 75% of millennials looking to become more financially savvy, there is a huge opportunity for JPMorgan and other financial firms to cater to young adults on social media, so long as they are willing to take the time to build relationships, first.
“In this new world, if you want to connect with a younger audience, especially on social media, you really have to perceive how they feel about you. JPMorgan has not taken those steps to earn a dialogue.
“They just need to take this as a learning opportunity and go back out with a little more knowledge. I commend them for making an effort, but I do hope they don’t retrench and stop trying to connect because they’re too burned by it.”
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