What were they thinking?
That was the first of many, many questions left hanging Wednesday afternoon, after the beleaguered JPMorgan Chase (JPM) shot itself in the foot with its own Twitter hashtag. The bank's efforts to use social media quickly and publicly imploded, demonstrating the many potential pitfalls for banks and other big corporations that try to harness Twitter for their own purposes.
JPMorgan's public relations team had apparently intended to drum up audience participation, and business-minded questions, for a planned Thursday online discussion with vice chairman Jimmy Lee. So on Wednesday, the J.P. Morgan Twitter account invited the world to weigh in by suggesting that everyone using the social media network submit questions for Lee's "Twitter takeover," and mark their suggestions with the hashtag "#AskJPM."
The results were swift and merciless. JPMorgan, instead of taking over Twitter, was overtaken by sharp and snarky questions from critics, angry customers, and bored journalists.
"What's your favorite type of whale? #AskJPM," said The Atlantic's Matt O'Brien.
"Is your "Chief Compliance Officer" alive? Has anyone checked to see if he's in his office? #AskJPM," said Salon's David Dayen.
"Does Jamie Dimon pet a small cat and laugh ominously while he's ruining poor people's lives? #AskJPM," said blogger Tim Donovan.
The responses ranged from the joking to the angry. One Tweeter asked the country's biggest bank to take the Sex and the City personality test: "Are you a Samantha, Carrie, Miranda or Charlotte? I tend to think you're a Samantha. Do you agree? #AskJPM," said Ian Whitney.
On the more serious side, the Twitter account for Occupy Wall Street Twitter advertised the bank's quickly derailed experiment in social media, telling its followers, "Ever wish you could give JP Morgan/Chase a piece of your mind? Check out the hashtag #AskJPM right now."
One person named Adam Coleman asked the bank, "Can I have my house back? #AskJPM."
By Wednesday evening, JPMorgan had hundreds of questions, but few answers. The Twitter account that invited the deluge of responses canceled the Q&A session with Lee, while bank spokesman Joseph Evangelisti kept a sense of humor and Twitter etiquette about the kerfuffle. Asked for a comment, he responded via email: "#Bad idea! Back to the drawing board."