Right message, wrong people

How many of you saw the video with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake making fun of the rampant use of hashtags? If you didn’t, it’s hilarious – here it is.

At the time of this posting, this video had been viewed 17,572,521 times (I’m at least 3 of those) and it has 6,731 comments.

The message is pretty clear, and A LOT of people have seen it. Hashtags are overused. Stop it.

Yet people are still using hashtags at an alarming (and comical) rate! Some of you might be wondering what a hashtag is and what the big deal is?

A hashtag (#) has been used (primarily) on Twitter to group tweets together to make it easier to follow a conversation. For example, if we were talking about roller coasters, I might put #rollercoasters at the end of my tweet. You could search for that and all things “tagged” that way would appear.

The trend of hashtagging, however, has turned into a way to convey a thought very quickly without much context. And, it’s now being used everywhere, not just on Twitter. Here is an example.

“Work was horrible today! #wanttogobacktobed #whycantifindabetterjob #iwanticecream”

I thought the Fallon/Timberlake video was a funny but poignant call for an end to all this hashtag foolishness. Yet it still persists.

This reminds me of leaders who identify an issue with one or two employees and set out to fix it by gathering their staff for a meeting and addressing it with everyone.

“This way, everyone is aware and is on the same page”, is the rationale.

Really? Let’s take a look at how this plays out… #forreals.

  • The people who had the issue may not realize you are talking about them. They may assume you are talking about someone else… Wrong message gets to the right person.
  • The people that have no stake in this issue wonder why you are talking to them about this, since they know it’s not their issue. Once they realize it’s not about them, they tune out. Wrong message, wrong people.
  • For those with a guilty conscience or a small inkling that it could be them, ultimately figure it’s not since you haven’t addressed them privately. If it is them, they’ll just wait for you to bring it up again before they worry about it. Wrong message, wrong people.

None of these scenarios accomplish getting the right message to the right people. The best way to do that is to address these issues individually. If someone is overusing hashtags, for example, talking to that person about their specific issue is the only way to ensure that that individual gets the message. This gives them the chance to ask questions and to clarify what you mean. Even your best efforts to “open a meeting to questions and concerns” will fall short of achieving the kind of clarity a one-on-one meeting can produce.

Next time you have the impulse to address everyone, STOP. Is this REALLY an issue that involves everyone?  If not, address it with the individual, unless you want the behavior or issue to continue. 17.5 million people have seen this message about hashtags, yet the trend continues.




Matt’s new book, The Myth of Employee Burnout has not been read by 17.5 million people… yet. #youshouldbuyacopy