Replying to all doesn’t prove you’re working

The IM Bat signal went up from a friend: How do I create a rule to stop mass emails?

What she meant was: How do I stop this “reply all” conversation loop that I don’t want. We’ve all been there; some desperate or pissed off individual fires off an email about some problem or another to several distribution groups hoping that somehow mass distribution will solve their problem.

Of course, this clicks off something in the brain of normally intelligent people to respond to all with banal responses such as:

  • Not sure why I’m receiving this
  • You must mean the other Rob Johnson
  • Please stop responding reply to all
  • I don’t work in IT
  • Please disregard my previous email
  • Please don’t reply all
  • You realize replying to all is clogging our in-boxes
  • For the love of all that is good, please stop replying to all

What is it that makes supposedly intelligent people do this? I don’t mean the original email; I mean that’s just wrong on its face. Don’t blast email entire distribution groups because you’re not getting the service you expect. That usually just makes people mad and less motivated to help, especially if the problem is user error.

I mean how is it that after 30 something years, people still don’t realize that replying to all on one of these emails is the office version of spam? It makes me sad to think that these people might actually be leading technical projects. If you can’t figure out that replying to all will create a mess, then you shouldn’t be leading anything.

The first few replies are always funny, until you realize you have to remember how to stop the madness. By the way, select one of the messages and then choose “Ignore” from the Delete actions in the Outlook ribbon. It moves them all to Deleted Items folder where I can now see that at least 50 people and counting don’t know enough to stop replying to all.

Are we so conditioned to answer anything in our Inbox that even if we know the message isn’t meant for us, we feel compelled to respond? Responding doesn’t mean you’re doing your job, you don’t get a gold star for telling everyone in the thread: Not sure I’m supposed to get this. You’re not supposed to get this; you’re not supposed to respond to this. Mind your own business and please, stop replying to all.

Posted in email, Social Learning | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The right social channel can spur the perfect frenzy

I’ve been caught up recently in two of the latest social media frenzies – the Ice Bucket Challenge and the Simpson’s Marathon.

Beyond the fun and community building of each, they show how to effectively use the right social media channel to achieve your goals. Neither would have been as successful without being on the right platform.

By now you know about the Ice Bucket Challenge; I’m sure you or a friend have done it. You dump a bucket of ice water on your head to support ALS awareness and then nominate four others to do the same or donate to the cause. This viral sensation, which leverages video posts within Facebook, has raised $42 million dollars from July 29-Aug 21. The sight of friends, family and celebrities getting doused is the kind of content perfect for Facebook.

The brief nature of the videos, and the ability to watch it right in your timeline, enabled the challenge to go viral. This would not have been as effective using Vine videos (too short) or pictures on something like Pinterest (too hard to capture). With FB’s massive reach and the fun, easy nature of the challenge (let’s face it, seeing anyone getting water poured over their heads is funny) it took off in ways it would not have in other channels. There’s no need to rely on timeline advertising and the content is driving itself.

The Simpsons Marathon is a different story and one that really works best only on Twitter. “The Simpsons” will be one of the main shows on the new cable channel, FXX. To promote the channel, FXX is running in order all 552 episodes from the show’s 25-year run during a 12-day marathon from Aug 21-Sept 1.

“The Simpsons” has created tons of popular catch phrases and people have been quoting their favorite lines for years. Twitter is perfect for sharing those soundbites. The show itself is leading the way through the handle @EverySimpsons – tweeting quotes, screen grabs, show schedules and commentary from writers of the show, many of whom haven’t discussed their episodes in years. The rapid fire nature of the marathon aligns perfectly with the rapid fire posting in Twitter, something that wouldn’t be as fun in FB.

By tweeting and sharing, the network is driving people to the TV to watch or record their favorite shows, many of which they haven’t seen in years. They’ve also smartly promoted their Twitter handle and the hashtag #everysimpsonsever during the marathon to achieve a synergy between TV and social.

ach event is igniting a sense of community; one a very strategic promotion and one that is social lightning in a bottle. Both events showcase the best of social media and the power of their respective channels.

Posted in social media | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fly or flail

photoI feel like I’m on the other side of the door about to open onto the next step of my career; I can fly or flail. I intend to flap my arms like mad


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

Follow the leader who leads

I like to find nuggets of the real world in sports since as a former sportswriter I’m always intrigued at how people fail to see professional sports as a job and business.

They see the games, but not the hard work that goes into being elite. And what they really don’t see is how leaders are made. In corporate America, we have leadership training; all sorts of methodologies and processes to create leaders. In sports, leaders create themselves and I find it fascinating that we don’t think that way in our organizations.

I love this quote from NY Giants linebacker Jameel McClain, who was just signed this year. “The media likes to make the person that makes the most money the leader,” McClain said in an NY Daily News story that focused on filling a leadership void created by injury. “I see the guy who just works hard and cares more about others than he cares about himself as a leader.”

So here’s is a guy, who the team just signed this offseason and hasn’t played in a game yet (the team is going through offseason workouts now) who is already a leader. Did the coaches appoint him? No. Did the team send him through management training? No. Did he get to be a leader based on his title? No, no and no.

We miss so many easy wins in our organizations with leaders. We think the only way to find them is to train them or give them leadership responsibilities based on a job description. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

This is as true in a social or community based organization as it is on the football field. Hierarchy doesn’t make leaders, leaders make themselves.

Posted in Social Learning, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Pierce chain mail with social channels

Internal social media channels are often neglected when creating communication plans; especially as part of change management. That’s too bad as it can be a far more effective tool than traditional hierarchical email blasts.

I’ve made this the focus of much of my social media coaching for some time. I find senior leaders of complex change management projects are eager for new ways to engage their audience and that opens the door for me to introduce some of my favorite techniques.

Social media gives you two great advantages over traditional corporate communication vehicles that follow the hierarchy:

  • It breaks the clutter of passed-down distributed emails
  • Fosters the two-way and group discussions that elude email communication


One problem with email is that we get so much of it, even messages sent by senior leaders can get lost. I know that I’m now getting more junk mail at work than I get at home and it can be tough during a busy day to catch that message about the latest change in org structure from the top leader.
The other problem with email is that in a hierarchy, the message often first goes to the leadership team, then it is distributed to their leadership team and then to line managers and then finally passed to the masses. This means people across the organization are getting the message at different times and potentially with different spin attached to it.


You can mitigate those issues by using social channels and allowing your leaders to speak directly to the rank and file. This is especially effective if you leverage internal communities. Having leadership post important change related communications in the community shows a transparency and an openness that can’t be achieved with email. It also opens the door for conversation, which is critical during change. I like to recommend that messages be posted as announcements on the community landing page and referenced in the microblog. This gives community members two forums to engage with leaders and other members. You just can’t do that with email.

The second technique I recommend is pairing live chats with major announcements. This opens a third avenue for dialog between all levels of the organization. As we’ve done more and more chats, people are opening up and sharing concerns and asking questions that benefit the entire organization. Leaders are now eager to engage the community directly because they can handle questions and concerns in real-time and control the message to everyone with consistency.

The greatest benefit of all might be that by eschewing hierarchical email and using social communication your organization becomes more of a community. And isn’t that an important goal in any change management activity?

Posted in social communication, social media | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Forget the phone, have an IM meeting

A recent glitch during a Webex meeting got me thinking about the time I had a team meeting using IM.

For me, using IM for a meeting is great; it conceals my NY accent and I can type as fast a I can talk. Of course, remembering that not everyone can do that was my biggest challenge. At the time I had a small team, and they were game for trying it. It worked pretty well and I’ve done it once or twice since.


  • If you like to take fastidious notes during meetings IM is great because the whole meeting is a note
  • Everyone gets to be heard; you want to say something, type it
  • It works best with small groups – too many folks can cause confusion in the thread. I wouldn’t do it with more than 4-5 people
  • You need to be very comfortable with the team – don’t try this for a kickoff or when major decisions need to be made
  • They’re great for frequent team check-ins or updates


  • You need to be aware that others can’t type at same speed, though that’s not much different from realizing that people absorb info at a meeting at different paces
  • It can get tough to follow if you’re scrolling up to catch something since IM forces the display down as more content is added
  • Give people time to read and absorb what you wrote. I like to write more frequent quick posts, so I needed to let my team know when I finished a thought…like saying “over” on those old-time radio transmissions
  • Don’t jump topics until everyone is ready to move on; unlike a chat or threaded discussion, IM just posts content as they comes in. You don’t want to confuse people. I specifically asked if it was OK to move on to our next agenda item

 Give it a shot and let me know how you make out

Posted in social communication, social media | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Live blogging somewhat like the big boys

Our Chief Learning Officer held two Town Hall Meetings last week and as part of my push to show the value of social media and communication, I decided to live blog the events.

I’ve always been impressed by folks who live blog major events like Presidential Debates and ball games. It reminds me of my first career in newspapers when the writers would send in pieces of their baseball stories in 3-inning blocks. Our job as editors was to thread the blocks together and then take dictation when the writer called in with the lede right at deadline.

In those days I wasn’t banging away on an iPad, and I gotta tell you I think that was easier. Maybe it was because adding some commentary to the posts as they go up raises the degree of difficulty some what. And while we had to watch for libel and other journalistic needs, we certainly didn’t have HR looking over our shoulders.

I used my iPad for the first event and then my computer for the second. It was easier to type on the laptop, but I made equal noise banging on each device. Anyone who works with me knows I make a racket when typing, I think it comes from my newspaper days when we used those mainframe stations with the big thick keys…you really had to strike those babies. The mobile version of our community worked equally well as the web version so that didn’t hinder me at all.

I do wish we had gotten more immediate feedback during the events. I only had about 23% of the posts “liked” and only one comment. I’m sure some of that can be attributed to folks not knowing what a live blog was and that they were either in the room or listening to the events on Webex. I ran a quicky poll and the good news is that if people followed the blog, they overwhelming liked it.

Clearly this wasn’t as successful an experiment as Live Chats or the Work Out Loud Week promotion, but I wouldn’t write it off as a failure. At least I got to connect with some old skills and be reminded that time is a flat circle. The communications remain similar, it’s just the delivery that changes.

Posted in social communication, Social Learning, social media | Tagged , | 4 Comments