Too Many @Mentions = You’re Doing it Wrong

One of the things I like most about personal & professional social networks is the context that they provide around communication streams.  We’re able to target our messages to specific audiences without needing to remember (or capture) each and every individual, and we also have more control over what messages come to us from other people. (Let’s take Facebook, for instance: I’m a member of a Dave Matthews Band (DMB) group in Facebook, and when I have something to say or share that’s DMB-related, I post to that group rather than to my profile (most of the time). Why? Because my target audience is entirely contained in that group, whereas posting to my Facebook profile would push my DMB news to all of my Facebook friends, most of whom have no interest in viewing or participating in my DMB ridiculousness. So, quick lesson = context is key!)

A few weeks ago my company published a post I wrote that highlights this very concept in the professional network we use – Salesforce Chatter. In the post’s matrix we identified how someone should determine the most appropriate audience for any given Chatter post. Just like my Facebook group example, the beauty of Chatter and similar ESN tools is the ability for a single employee to find information, answers, content, and experts even if s/he doesn’t know who to ask. 

…Which brings me to my point: if you are consistently @mentioning more than a few people in your posts, one of two things is happening: 

  1. You’re not contextualizing your post appropriately (so as to reach the intended audience)
    and/or
  2. Your post is properly placed (in a group, for instance), but the appropriate audience isn’t receiving the message and thus not responding
The latter is not uncommon and is a significant part of what I’m paid to do every day in helping organizations develop consistent processes & streams of communication. When we see people abusing @mentions, sometimes the answer is training, sometimes the answer is adding or restructuring Chatter groups (though if it’s a 1-off conversation that may not be necessary).

I would expect that both of these reasons contribute to why people might be @mention abusers, but for now let’s assume that the first issue – contextualizing your post – is the primary reason for multiple @mentions. 

 In Chatter, an @mention directs a post to someone specific and, by default, notifies them via email. This can be a helpful tool in many instances, such as this one: 
In this case, I saw a post in the “Ideas Central” group and realized that Bailey wasn’t a member of that group, so I used an @mention to flag the post for Bailey. As a result, Noelle’s post is adding value for someone she doesn’t even know because of the great use of an @mention to Bailey. 
 
On the other hand, improper use of @mentions often means that you’re not finding the appropriate context for your post. Take this, for example:
We can see that Reese posted a marketing question to his profile – rather than the Marketing group – and simply @mentioned several people that he knows. In doing so, not only did he provide zero context but more importantly he didn’t reach the audience he needed. If it weren’t for the coincidental timing of Lucie seeing this thread, an inaccurate conclusion may have caused widespread & improper use of their marketing collateral.
 
Of course, there are occasions where multiple @mentions make sense, but more often than not, you shouldn’t need to use them consistently en masse – if you do, it’s no different then sending an e-mail to everyone in the company because you don’t know who to ask. That’s a problem Chatter is supposed to help solve.

Unsure if you’re an @mention abuser? Double check your post placement first (use the matrix as a guide!). If it turns out that you are properly contextualizing your post but not receiving the answers you need, hit me up and we can walk through potential strategies to address your organization’s Chatter environment and communication structures. 8^)

 

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9 thoughts on “Too Many @Mentions = You’re Doing it Wrong

  1. HI Becky,I always use a global search before I ask a question, this has several benefits 1) shows me where the conversations are occurring,2) I might find the answer before I post,3) if it is something that I search for in a recurring manner, I paste a link in my own private chatter group of useful links. Global search will also find it here.

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  2. EXCELLENT point, Glenn – thank you for making it. Ideally we would all embody the self-service model & using Global Search before asking the question…though for better or worse, it also seems that we're collectively moving more toward an on-demand model where if I don't find it immediately it's easier/faster to simply ask people to point me in the right direction.

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  3. Nice one, I posted this in our chatter org… and did NOT mention anyone :-). I think the trick for us will be to get everyone using the desktop / mobile / iPad apps to keep up with their groups and people/things they follow and/or configure their digest settings so they don't miss anything… and THEN we can knock off the mention abuse.

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  4. Haha, nice! 🙂 Thanks, MichaelForce!And you are totally right … the messages need to reach the right people in order for this model to work, and I am confident that the way they reach them is not via app (though desktop/mobile apps are a great secondary resource) but instead via email notification. I've learned this is a scary concept for people, however, so…. standby for an upcoming post where I outline (and challenge people to) the technique. 🙂

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  5. This is a great best practice post. Your examples clearly show where the tools are being used incorrectly.

    I have noticed this symptom in a different fashion where someone wants support in context. This might be escalating a case using chatter or asking for support on an Account or Opportunity. If the user needs to jump to group to ask the question then they lose the thread within the record.

    I have built a PoC that allows users to mention groups (rather than lots of people) to engage specific people

    http://vanityforce.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/chatter-mention-groups-in-salesforce/

    Would be interested in your thoughts both positive and negative to how this would help collaboration or if in fact just curing a symptom???

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    • Andy – I just looked at your solution and commented on your post. Overall I think it’s super interesting (I want to test it!) and I think it goes beyond curing a symptom, because the point of it is to keep everything in context. In your example in your video, members of the marketing group are likely not following every opportunity (nor should they be expected to), but the ability to include them in a thread on that opportunity AND their group keeps the conversation contextualized for all parties involved. And, as it relates to my post, it eliminates the need to @mention individuals (i.e. no context) and instead @mentions context himself. Love it!

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  6. Pingback: Becky Webster on Deploying Chatter - ButtonClick Admin | ButtonClick Admin

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