What you can learn form JPMorgan’s #TwitterFail

When it comes to the Twitterverse, perception is king.

The new rules of the game are quite simple really: Know your audience, and know yourself! This basic Web 2.0 mindset could have saved a great deal of heartache for the PR department at JPMorgan.

In what started as an innocent attempt at engaging their Twitter followers with a simple Q&A session, quickly devolved into an internet feeding frenzy with the help of the #askJPM hashtag.

It was a populist­driven bloodbath, with all of the negative feelings manifested over the past several years flowing out in 140 characters or less: ­

What’s it like working with Mexican drug cartels? Do they tip?#AskJPM ­

What’s your favorite type of whale?#AskJPM

And most importantly:

­#AskJPM why did u think this would be a good idea?

Know Your Audience

The internet (in its current form) is a democratized, open­source digital community that takes pride in its ability to call out the bad guys, while allowing the greatest ideas to rise to the top, effectively changing our world for the better through transparency.

The miscalculation JPM made was not acknowledging this dynamic. They went into an open Q&A after years of operating independent from larger society, where information was only released when it served their best interests. The users of Twitter value honesty, so with shadowy JPM giving them the fleeting opportunity to call the mega­financier out, they ran with it. This partly came about because JPMorgan didn’t seem to know how Twitter actually operates.

The viral nature of the site, combined the fluidity of conversation, brought thousands of observers into the mix who would not have had a compelling reason to participate, leading to a mini­revolt. Also, JPM made the mistake of blindly following the trends of reddit and other social sites, where celebrity AMA’s (Ask Me Anything) and other types of interactions have grown popular, thinking their customers would appreciate something similar. The problem here is that JPM is not a celebrity in the eyes of the public, they are in fact the villain, and Twitter went to great lengths to make certain they finally realized this.

Understanding who you are speaking to will dictate whether or not you are successful on Twitter, and JPM proved they do not know their customers, the broader internet ecosystem, or maybe most importantly, themselves…

Know Yourself!

It is well ­known that bankers have an outsized perception of how they are looked at by the rest of society.

The Twitter fiasco proved that JPMorgan had a delusional sense of public standing, and thought they could have a normal conversation with their audience. Whether they know it or not, they are one of the most vilified companies in America and the fact that they did not take this into account is mind­blowing.

With the amount of money wasted during the financial crisis, and the major role JPM played, regular people immediately saw the irony of the situation and attacked. Basically, through hubris, JPM miscalculated risk…the one thing they are supposed to be good at, and aimlessly entered a space where the majority of the audience (millennials) reject ethics that do not align with their own.

This made JPMorgan look out ­of­ touch, morally bankrupt, imperceptive, and for lack of a better term, dumb. While it is obvious these are not dumb people, that fourth label resulted from a very real combination of the first three characteristics. Brands with less­than­-stellar reputations should know 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 open -ended Q&A’s.

Web 2.0 is a huge sociological experiment currently being played out, so it is in every company’s best interest to understand people, rather than just their primary business. Perception and social consideration are now vital in the long­term health of 21st century business, a lesson JPM learned the hard way.

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