Why your social media is more valuable than some big corporates’

By Neil Patrick

Over the weekend I was reflecting on personal brands vs. corporate brands on social media. Social media is possibly the most democratising force the world has ever seen. For individuals and our careers, this is a huge opportunity. For some big corporates, it’s turning into a nightmare.

Take JP Morgan. Over on one of my favourite blogs, The Bankers Umbrella, the story is told of how the marketing team at JP Morgan decided it would be a great idea to rebuild its erm, slightly tarnished reputation through Twitter. They set up the #AskJPM hashtag so the public could fire questions at Vice Chairman, Jimmy Lee.

Here’s a sample of the flood of questions that resulted:

‪@ReformedBroker I have Mortgage Fraud, Market Manipulation, Credit Card Abuse, Libor Rigging and Predatory Lending AM I DIVERSIFIED? ‪#AskJPM

‪@kcm74 Did you always want to be part of a vast, corrupt criminal enterprise or did you "break bad"? ‪#AskJPM

‪@alexisgoldstein Is the fact that you've paid over half a billion in fines since August a source of pride, or are you embarrassed it's not higher? ‪#AskJPM

‪@LoftusCharlotte ‪#AskJPM Is it true that, while you don't always spit on poor people, when you do, you have perfect aim?

‪@ddayen Will the firm explore new markets, like selling candy-backed securities to babies w/o disclosing the lack of chocolate in the bonds? ‪#AskJPM

Social Media for business isn’t really that difficult if we stick to a few basic rules, such as being authentic, helpful and accessible. And a firm like JP Morgan has huge budgets to throw at this task, along with dozens of so-called marketing professionals employed full time on pretty handsome salaries.

But they miscalculated. All this resource and ‘expertise’ and they still ended up with yet more egg on their faces.

Does this mean that big corporates should avoid social media, especially if their reputation is a little less than glowing?

Actually, I don’t think they should. They just need to understand that the world has changed. Marketing communication is no longer about telling people stuff and trying to make them do what you want them to do.

I checked out JP Morgan’s UK Asset Management Twitter account @JPMorgan_UK. They haven’t Tweeted since 24 October….almost three months ago. Their home page carries lots of very ‘helpful’ small print which interestingly includes the statement, ‘JP Morgan Asset Management Marketing Limited accepts no legal responsibility or liability for any matter or opinion expressed in this material.’ Huh? You accept no responsibility or liability for any matter? Are you saying you are above the law?

Or just that if we think you have cheated us, we’ll have to sue you to try and obtain any recourse?

JP Morgan Chase 270 Park Ave. NYC Credit: official-ly cool

It’s a collision between old world marketing and 21st century marketing. Marketing for financial services was my professional activity for almost 20 years. I know how it works.

The marketing team come up with an idea and pitch it to top management. If approved, they then spend the next few days or weeks crafting the content before taking it to the legal team who have the authority to reject or amend any aspect they feel uncomfortable with. It’s called ‘compliance’ and the legal bods will usually add a whole host of disclaimers and statutory statements, designed to ensure that the firm cannot be successfully sued if anyone buys anything and for any reason doesn’t like it.

This fails on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin.

First, at the core of 21st century marketing is authenticity. If you make a mistake, you hold up your hand and do your best to rectify it. You do not say, ‘We’ll see you in court, and since we are rich and you are (comparatively) poor, we will kill you.’

Second, it’s about listening, not telling. Implicit in the #AskJPM campaign was the idea that JP Morgan is smart and you are dumb. Ask us and we’ll share our superior wisdom with you. A smarter move would have been for JPM to ask the questions and demonstrate some humility and willingness to listen.

Third, you cannot choose when you are ‘ready’ to talk to people about your business. You have to be there 24/7. You take the rough with the smooth, you attempt to demonstrate your care for your customers day in day out. This slowly but steadily builds a base of goodwill. It won’t make you immune to catastrophes, but it will build a support base which at the very least will counterbalance any haters that you stir up along the way.

@JPMorgan_UK has some interesting Twitter stats. They have 7,285 followers and are following just 18 people. Some would interpret this as impressive. Yes it might be if you were an individual. For a global corporate with a tarnished reputation, it says quite the opposite. It says, ‘We are not interested in what anyone else has to say’.

None of this is rocket science, but through a toxic combination of defensiveness, arrogance and simple ignorance of the democratisation of media, firms like JP Morgan are in growing danger of being consigned to the dustbin of total brand fails.

I’ll leave this matter with one more statistic. I have more Twitter followers than @JPMorgan_UK …but I am also following many many more people too. Just saying…

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I have learned a lot from this article, thanks. Warm regards from Villarrica, Chile.