The Impact of Social Media: Reply-all Fiasco

Communication concept: Hand pressing a letter icon on a world map interface

It’s quite obvious that social media has become one of the main forms of communication these days. Millions of connections and information can be formed and posted within seconds.

Sounds like a great avenue for companies to gain exposure, right?

Well, it can be but it can also be very complicated and risky. The image of a company and the importance to keep their reputation intact could quickly be hindered with social media.

Thomson Reuters recently experienced a ‘nightmare’ when someone inside the company accidentally sent an email to 30,000+ employees. After this person hit send, hundreds of people on the email list started replying-all saying they received the email in error.

I know what you might be thinking: who cares? How does this relate to social media?

This particular mistake went wild on social media, after an employee tweeted it out. As a result, the Wall Street Journal first picked up the story on Twitter: Reuters Employees Bombarded With Reply-All Email Catastrophe.

Every company has its reply-all email meltdown. Wednesday was Thomson Reuters’ turnemployees and reporters at the news and information company took to Twitter under the hashtag #ReutersReplyAllGate.

Great, publicity! Well, perhaps not the kind of publicity that they want, or any other company would want, in the media. Some employees and possibly the clients of Thomson Reuters could view it as an embarrassment. This simple email snafu was taken a step further when it was exposed to the world; possibly breaking the social media ethics that are included in Thomson Reuters’ code of business conduct.

Lessons to be learned:

  1. Double check the emails you are sending
  2. Make sure you are aware of your company’s policy regarding social media – you are an extension and representation of the company you work for

4 thoughts on “The Impact of Social Media: Reply-all Fiasco

  1. I liked your blog. It has some excellent reminders on sending communications.

    I can see how the “reply all” button could be pressed on accident if a person is in a hurry. I think email technology should include a “reply all” disable button or a pop-up warning when the reply all button is pressed.

    You also make an excellent point on referencing your organization’s social media policy. As you mentioned, all employees are representatives of their organization. Any employee viewpoint that does not reflect the values of the organization could cause negative publicity for them. Recently, I read an article about a a person that lost her job because of posts and viewpoints she expressed years before she became an employee.

    I think it is also good advice to not say or write anything that you wouldn’t want shared on the front page of a newspaper.

    1. I agree that there should be a warning before you hit send on a reply-all email. There are so many times that it happens, even in a smaller scale than the one I posted about. In fact, I’m currently on an email string where people keep replying all. It’d be great if they took the time to realize that not everyone on the string needs to see all of the replies.

  2. This post is a great example of the “domino effect” in social media, and how easily information travels across the internet and through different platforms.

    However, I disagree with your implication that it was bad publicity. Yes, it was embarrassing, but like you said, “who cares?” Everyone has sent a wrong e-mail, and that one happened to be at a huge company.

    If I was a business owner and the Wall Street Journal was tweeting about a happening that was just a funny/annoying mistake, I would be thrilled! Publicity is publicity, and the proof of that is happening even as I type this – we are talking about the business, and I even clicked to find out more about them when I read this blog post. The more people talk, the more business you get regardless of how it started.

    1. I went back and forth on whether or not it was bad publicity. At first, I thought it was really funny – maybe because I wasn’t actually on the email string and was just hearing about the witty replies from others. Then, our corporate communications team posted a blog on how it can affect our image to our customers; especially since we are a technology company – you’d think it wouldn’t happen to us (not, just kidding). All in all, like you said, it was publicity nonetheless!

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