Beware lack of Plan B in a Twitter hashtag chat #AskJPM

Tomorrow's Q&A is cancelled...

Using Twitter as a channel to engage in public conversation is a tactic that’s been employed by a number of large organizations in high-profile examples over the past few weeks.

Focused around a hashtag – a word or single-word phrase starting with the ‘#’ symbol – such ‘tweet chats’ can be an effective method of articulating perspectives and opinion on topics of interest to you and your audiences, be they customers, investors, employees, the mainstream media, etc.

They also let you surface issues that interest your audiences as well as concern them, serving as useful barometers of opinion to complement other or formal methods of analysing online opinion related to your company, people in your company, your brand(s) and topics that interest you.

A tweet chat can be hugely useful in creating and strengthening connections between an organization, its people and tweeters and their communities out there as the Bank of England experienced recently.

But is it very much a double-edged sword where things can very quickly spin out of anyone’s control – no matter how hard you try to exercise control – as British Gas and Ryanair discovered last month; and as investment bank JP Morgan found out to its cost last week when it tried to conduct a tweet chat around the hashtag #AskJPM.

It was a classic example of being not in control of the message where it was hijacked during a relentless, unceasing storm of hostile tweets using that hashtag.

Yet it’s deeper than that. It seems to me that the exercise was one of futility for JP Morgan. While I have no idea of the specific and measurable goal they set out to achieve by holding such a tweet chat, it’s clear there was no structured plan that included one all-important element:

What is our Plan B if things go awry? If we get aggressive questions or hostile opinions about our business, corporate and individual behaviours, our culture, our plans, anything that isn’t what we want everyone to talk about, namely a Q&A session with Vice Chairman Jimmy Lee on career advice and leadership?

Within minutes of announcing the tweet chat, the hashtag was overwhelmed with hostile and amusing/sarcastic tweets in almost equal measure, causing the bank to throw in the towel on the exercise.

But the reputation hit was immediate as mainstream media around the world revelled in stoking JP Morgan’s discomfort and highlighting its failure – gleefully in many cases – with commentary and opinion that has one thing in common: portraying JP Morgan as totally clueless in its plans for using Twitter in this way.

#AskPJM media headlines

While this is a ‘good’ example of the consequences that may result through not having a Plan B (assuming there is a solid Plan A), there’s a more fundamental aspect of JP Morgan’s effort than that.

I would argue that a tweet chat for the reason understood – that of a Q&A with a senior executive of the bank – was probably a terrible idea given the landscape and climate surrounding big banks following the role many played in the financial crash of recent years; and the public hostility online about specific banks, such as JP Morgan.

(In contrast, take a look at the positive results the Bank of England experienced in its recent tweet chat. Although at the heart of the financial crisis in common with other central banks, this is a largely untarnished financial organization, enjoying positive sentiment partly due to a new man at the helm, Governor Mark Carney.)

It doesn’t matter whether such poor sentiment and hostile opinion of JP Morgan is justified or not. It doesn’t matter whether the criticism of JP Morgan and highlighting its apparent cluelessness is fair or not.

All that matters is that the organization ventured out onto the public social web to engage with people and quickly learned that the landscape they wished to survey is a pretty hostile one, for which they had no plan of defence, and have suffered a reputation hit that is still in the news (and will be in Google search results for a long time to come).

So the first question they should have asked was:

Is this tweet chat a good idea, or not?

And that should be the start of Plan A.

“Bad idea, back to the drawing board,” declared the JP Morgan official tweeter upon cancelling the event. I hope we see the outcome from that drawing board.

Meanwhile, if you want review JP  Morgan’s discomfort, take a look at “J.P.Morgan shows us how NOT to do Twitter #AskJPM,” an excellent Storify curation by Gabrielle Laine-Peters.

There is some genuine learning there.

Curate and share stories in custom timelines on Twitter

Hot on the heels of its stock market debut last week, Twitter launched a new feature yesterday that lets you create timelines of tweets and share that curated content across the social web.

Called custom timelines, the new feature is enabled in an update to TweetDeck, the dashboard app that lets you manage multiple Twitter accounts with views into conversations via multiple columns. TweetDeck is a long-time favourite of power users.

Introducing Custom Timelines

If you’re a fan of Storify, the concept of custom timelines will be familiar to you. Storify is a web service that lets you create and curate stories and timelines using content published not only on Twitter but also on other social channels such as Facebook and Instagram.

It’s a hugely popular tool that gives you a record of tweets, status updates, snapshots and more, the kinds of things people create and post during an event, for instance.

Such content in timelines offer glimpses and insights into the informal, often spontaneous and usually authentic opinions of people as they experience something that they share online.

It’s very easy to understand how to use custom timelines, so creating one is quite straightforward as I discovered when I created my first one: tweets in an informal tweetchat that complemented “Is the Social Business Gold Rush Over?“, a webinar discussion organized by Our Social Times that I logged into yesterday.

Twitter’s announcement post is a good guide on how to create custom timelines in TweetDeck. The Next Web also has a useful guide.

And here is the custom timeline I created, an embed I created via the widgets tool in my Twitter account on the web around the webinar hashtag #socbiz2013:

All the tweets are arranged chronologically: that’s how it came out, not how I chose it. That seems to be the only display choice at the moment.

You manage how you share your custom timeline via TweetDeck, from where you initiate the procedure to create an embed widget, view the timeline in your Twitter account on the web, and tweet about it.

Share custom timeline

The new feature is available now in an updated version of TweetDeck for Windows (that’s the one I use), and I heard it’s also already rolled out on TweetDeck Chrome. A Mac version is coming soon, Twitter says.

I can see Twitter custom timelines – they need to come up with a snappier, memorable name for this – proving popular in the same way Storify has. Indeed, I think this will present a significant challenge to Storify as it offers another option to Twitter users that is part of the Twitter ecosystem and easily usable from within a Twitter app.

It doesn’t have the wider customization ability as Storify does – only sorts tweets chronologically, for instance; no adding notes about individual content – but I think it will get strong take-up among power users.

Twitter custom timelines also offer something quite interesting that will be of distinct interest to the more tech-minded users: the custom timelines API beta:

[...] This new API will open up interesting opportunities, such as programming your custom timelines based on the logic that you choose, or building tools that help people create their own custom timelines, as TweetDeck does.

In sum, by adding custom timelines as an interesting and useful new feature to its service that will encourage wide sharing of content by users, Twitter is aiming to increase its visibility across the social web to gain greater awareness and, ultimately, more users and more opportunities for advertising exposure.

Twitter’s debut on the New York Stock Exchange last week (stock market symbol: TWTR) is a milestone in the evolution of a simple text-messaging tool that, in seven years, has grown to be a significant and influential part of the contemporary mainstream. Take a look at its updated About pages.

Looks like Twitter means business.

Related posts:

Twitter on the launchpad #TWTR

We just priced our IPO...

Today, Twitter is on the cusp of becoming a publicly-listed company with an initial equity valuation of $18 billion, according to some analysis.

At 9.30am US Eastern time, 2.30pm GMT, the sound of the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange will mark the moment when shares in Twitter – at an initial offer price of $26 each and identified by the NYSE symbol TWTR – will become listed on the Exchange and public trading will begin.

It’s worth looking at what it is about the microblogging service (how quaint that moniker now sounds) that makes it, arguably, one of the most valuable tools for communication professionals and marketers, politicians and celebrities – in reality, just about anyone with a Twitter handle – to engage influencers and customers, broadcast news, manage reputations, and drive communication and marketing for individuals, causes and organizations of every type imaginable, in every country in the world.

You can acquaint yourself with today’s Twitter by checking the facts and figures on the company’s new ‘About‘ pages, redesigned and updated this week as the IPO nears.

About Twitter

You can also check any of the myriad online publications, from mainstream media to informed (even just opinionated) bloggers, all with commentary and opinion about any and every facet of Twitter and a business event that undoubtedly will capture imaginations globally from the sound of that bell ringing in New York City.

An article that caught my eye this morning is How Twitter changed the world, hashtag-by-hashtag by BBC News that assesses Twitter’s history, growth and other compelling metrics in a highly-readable timeline form.

Hashtag debut

The specific section on the history of the hashtag is especially interesting as it will give you insight into a tool that rapidly has become highly useful for connecting and measuring conversations, etc, on Twitter, that will help you see why this little symbol (#) is so significant today.

Some quotes from that history (with some added hashtags):

  • Hashtags are now the definitive way to group tweets on the same subject.
  • Hashtags can be a remarkably effective way of making a company change its policy. Whether it’s getting rid of offensive t-shirts, or forcing “gay best friend” dolls to be removed, there’s no faster way for consumers to well and truly kick off.
  • Twitter has cemented itself as a digital soapbox, and a place for #politicians to engage directly with people, making major announcements along the way. It is arguably one of the most effective campaign tools – particularly in reaching voters that are unlikely to pay attention to a party political broadcast.
  • #Newsrooms the world over have taken to social media, using it as both a source, but also a broadcast platform. Newsrooms are awash with positions that simply didn’t exist five years ago. The real challenge, of course, is to make sure what is tweeted is in fact true – and news organisations don’t always get it right.
  • In the English Premier League (#EPL), all 20 clubs are now on Twitter, with more than half of all first-team players having verified accounts. It means that fans are closer than ever to their heroes.
  • #Celebrities on Twitter are huge, and can perhaps be credited with bringing a more mainstream audience to the service.
  • During the uprisings in #Egypt, Twitter was a key channel for protesters to disseminate material, and to also organise gatherings.
  • Television executives the world over are implementing ways to make the most of the #secondscreen – your mobile or tablet – while watching their content. Often this is being seen as a way to fling more adverts at you.

Mainstream activities for something definitely not mainstream just a few years ago.

The #businessmodel has shifted. #TWTR.

Related posts:

How ‘social TV’ enables immersive involvement in live events

massrelevance

Audience participation with live TV events via social channels like Twitter is becoming increasingly common and a big part of audience expectations.

I’m thinking of campaign-type events, not spontaneous or serendipitous actions by individual tweeters, Facebookers or Google+ers with their communities.

This is about orchestrated activities: programme-makers and the television broadcasters creating a broader platform for wider, richer and valuable content dissemination where the tweeter becomes an active part  – and, perhaps, influencer – of a broadcast event that embraces true multi media.

And it’s way beyond simply sticking a hashtag on the TV screen.

Nowhere is this more part of the fabric of live TV events right now than in the US with shows like The Voice and – perhaps more significantly – live ‘town hall’ debates with President Obama.

CNET News reports on Mass Relevance, a “social experience platform for brands and media” (says its Wikipedia entry), and how it puts Twitter in front of television audiences, boosting the social network’s public profile and altering its perception as a place for more than pointless babble to being an essential tool that enables and facilitates immersive involvement in live events.

Understand the platform:

[…] Mass Relevance is software-as-a-service for brands, agencies, and producers. It’s a technology platform that instantly scans content flowing through the APIs of social media companies, Twitter in particular, and filters it according to the client’s desires. The rapid filtering piece, which is far cooler than it sounds, is what gives television producers like Nicolle Yaron of “The Voice” the confidence to put viewer comments on display and to let audiences vote live on a song for contestants to sing.

The platform, using real-time filters, sifts through hundreds of thousands of tweets, dumps the retweets and replies, purges the content producers know they don’t want — profane tweets, for instance — and then presents what’s left in a queue where someone manually approves the tweets to go on screen. The system can also collect and analyze data for visualizations and power audience polls […]

And you’ll understand more about what’s coming.

A far cry from the nostalgia of the test card from yester year!

It’s useful, too, to see this aspect of Twitter’s growing role in the evolving media landscape if you have interest in Twitter’s forthcoming stock market flotation.

Full story from CNET News: The secret company behind Twitter’s TV takeover.

(First posted to my Flipboard magazine as a story link.)

Related posts:

Twitter takes control of its story as it prepares for an IPO

Form S-1

The days when you heard about a company’s plans for a stock market flotation via a newspaper report or a TV or radio news item are now so much part of our nostalgic reflecting on simpler, slower times with the announcement by Twitter late yesterday on its plans for such an event.

The announcement was made in a tweet.

Posted at 10pm UK time, Twitter said that it has filed Form S-1 with the US Securities and Exchange Commission as a first step on the route to an initial public offering of shares in the company.

The filing was confidential, Twitter said, so no information on what’s in the document is publicly-viewable via Twitter’s entry in the SEC’s EDGAR filings database.

That means no one can find any detail on what the company is planning, giving Twitter huge control over the story it now builds; and how, when and where it tells it, and to whom.

I saw Twitter’s tweet about fifteen minutes after it was posted. It had already been re-tweeted over 7,000 times by then and news had started appearing across the mainstream media. There’s more amplification now as you can see in the tweet itself, embedded below.

There’s nothing about this yet on their official blog.

Under SEC rules, Twitter now enters the so-called quiet period where the company is limited in what it can say or disclose publicly about its plans.

Cue huge speculation from anyone with an opinion and an internet connection. And jokes.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Twitter would use its own network and channel for such an announcement. Plus, the regulatory environment and rules on how you can make such announcements are far more relaxed now than they ever have been, where social media channels like Twitter are allowed in certain circumstances.

The communication landscape shifted again.

[Later:] The New Yorker magazine has an excellent assessment of Twitter and how it’s evolving from the broader user-experience and ad-business perspectives, focusing on developments with the Twitter service itself, the evolution of its apps and the ways in which you can use it with those apps.

A thought-provoking conclusion:

[...] what’s coming is simply Twitter following through on promises both explicit and implicit: a Twitter that is at once simpler and richer. One hopes it’s also a better Twitter.

Add that to broaden your view about the IPO and what’s next for Twitter.

Tweets that self-destruct

Spirit for TwitterI guess it’s inevitable that everyone reporting on Spirit for Twitter likens its self-destructing tweet service to SnapChat, the mobile app for real-time picture and video messaging that self-destruct after a sender-defined time, up to ten seconds.

Spirit is similar in outcome – tweets you send that you mark with a certain hashtag will automatically delete themselves after the set time has passed.

You get a lot more time flexibility than just ten seconds though: minutes, hours and days.

The service was developed by Pierre Legrain, an ex-Twitter engineer, who told ABC News in the US, “It’s an invisible piece of software, like an enhancement to Twitter. You don’t have to download anything and will work from wherever you tweet from.”

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up at the Spirit of Twitter website.
  2. Wait for a tweet from Spirit  to tell you that your account is active.
  3. Start tweeting with an end-time hashtag for when your tweet will self-destruct.

I signed up for the service a couple of days ago and got my account-active tweet today. So I tried it out.

I set the tweet to self-destruct after 30 minutes by including the “#30m” hashtag:

Make your tweets self-destruct...

Sure enough, after 30 minutes, the tweet had disappeared.

If you go to the actual tweet URL https://twitter.com/jangles/status/375869860602851328, you’ll just get Twitter’s standard ‘tweet not found’ error screen:

Sorry, that page doesn't exist!

It’s a clever idea, one that I can imagine marketers latching on to. Individuals, too, for personal tweets.

For instance:

  • Time-sensitive offers you want to tweet, where people have xx minutes to click a link. Great for contests.
  • Tweeting about an event or something where the tweet being seen hours or days afterwards would take it entirely out of context.
  • Tweeting your pals to meet up at a pub at 8pm; the tweet self-destructs after, say, 8.30pm.

So I’d expect to see a flurry of self-destructing tweets from experimenters as the service attracts more attention.

Yet I wonder what impact this disruptive tool will have on the Twitter ecosystem, eg, including the analytics aspect. And, once a tweet is gone, I think you’ll need something far more effective than just the standard Twitter error page, the equivalent of a 404 error.

And what happens to an embed of a tweet on some web page or blog post that’s marked for self-destruction? I guess it will show the error page as the actual tweet won’t be around any more.

How about retweets and favorites? I RT’d my original tweet – and that RT’d tweet did disappear. But the favorite I saved? It’s still there:

Favorite...

This latter behaviour may well be the off-putter to widespread use: if you want to use a service where tweets will self-destruct, you want to be sure of that. Sure, people can take screen shots, but at least you’d want to know that the tweets themselves will be gone.

And it’s not clear what Twitter thinks of this – they could pull the plug on Spirit’s API access, and that would probably be the end.

Still, I like the idea and can see benefits especially from a business point of view in a service that offers this type of outcome.

What do you think? Useful, or just a gimmick?

(Via The Verge)