I posted this week about the trouble Home Depot ran into on Twitter recently, but they weren’t the only brand whose tactics backfired this month. Consider the case of J.P. Morgan, which may not have tweeted anything offensive, but inadvertently opened the floodgates of criticism nonetheless by failing to predict the onslaught of negativity that would emerge when unfiltered comments are solicited on Twitter.

You can read the full story here. In essence, J.P. Morgan strove to connect to students and consumers by having their vice chairman take over the company’s Twitter handle for a live Q&A session centered on career advice. Questions were solicited from the general public, with users being asked to tag their posts with #AskJPM. While the idea seemed harmless enough, it blew up in J.P. Morgan’s metaphorical face, more or less: Critics of the company hijacked the hashtag and let forth a volley of sarcastic questions and scathing comments about J.P. Morgan’s financial dealings that ultimately caused J.P. Morgan to call off the Q&A session altogether.

To be clear, J.P. Morgan did not necessarily do anything tactically wrong here, and their motivations for holding the Q&A session were innocent enough. Like many brands, they simply wanted to make the most of social media as a tool to better engage with their target audiences. What they failed to account for, however, is something I frequently talk about when discussing crisis communications with clients—a need to factor in potential reputation issues into communications planning as part of a “reputation management” strategy. Especially in this “social media age”, people love to call out reputational weaknesses of brands.

If there is a lesson to take away from the #AskJPM debacle, it is this: When you have reputation issues, even a seemingly benevolent communication tactic can backfire if critics are given a forum from which to berate your brand. Take care to choose your communication channel wisely in these situations.

What did you think of J.P. Morgan’s canceled Twitter chat?