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5 Social Media Buzz Words to Ban in 2013

I’m a believer in social and the real impact it can have if implemented across your business the right way. When it comes to understanding what social technologies can do for your business –and, specifically, how they can help you build better, stronger customer relationships at scale, I am a total zealot. Maybe that’s why I find the growing proliferation of buzzwords so cringeworthy – if anything, these only hinder the implementation of social in established organizations.

A prospective client I was speaking to this week said it best, “The word social in my organization causes a shudder.” Even though what I do revolves around social, I completely understand this sentiment. If you follow the headlines and vendor collateral you probably feel the same – vapid words and terms that get bandied about like germs in a packed elevator.

The technology providers, their marketing teams and their “ecosystem of expert consultants” are killing the real, substantial stories with breathless headlines. To get serious about social and hone in on what it’s really doing (and has the potential to do), we’ve got to clear out this dead wood.


“Fish where the fish are”

This was 2012’s magical justification for Facebook, and stems from the misguided sentiment that if 1 billion people are gathering in one location then it stands to reason your marketing efforts should be focused there. Fuzzy logic at best, as this would then mean every company in the world should be focusing in on China, and that SuperBowl ads should win the lion’s share of your marketing budget.

This mentality positions Facebook as the end-point when really it is an acquisition medium, one of many locations brands can go to initially reach potential customers so they can THEN do something important and meaningful with them. In fact, 60% of Facebook users find brand messages annoying when they are trying to connect with family and friends.

Brands have largely just focused on amassing the fans, without any clear strategy on what to do next. This year I hope to see more about how we are marketing to specific audiences and how Facebook helps that – rather than talking about the mass mob as having value.


“Big Data”

To understand how funny this is, you should start calling all your co-workers their name with BIG in front of it – Big John! Big Suzanne! Or use it sparingly with titles, “Hey, there is our big CFO guy”. It must be me, but isn’t this a tongue in cheek adjective that the technology industry is actually using seriously? We are sick of our speeds and feeds conversation so we had to somehow quantify the technical importance of data – so we creatively called it “Big Data.”

Here’s the upshot: No CMO wants Big Data. They want to hire a team of analysts to sort through all that noise and find a single aha – a clear, actionable finding that may inform and change the way they market and sell. Nate Silver’s brilliant presidential predictions summed up that finding the Signal in the Noise is what we are all really seeking. All these marketers are going to get with this Big Data is a big bill.


“Social Media Centre of Excellence”

Used to describe the way that social media companies can create and govern their social policies, the center of excellence emerged as this year’s hot organisational topic. While it’s nice to have a centre of excellence, I would rather my whole team just be excellent (And where is this “centre”? In another department, another building?). Putting a rope around who can play and who can’t and how they should and how they shouldn’t can actually be detrimental to a company’s efforts to implement social across the board. It places responsibility on one group while absolving everyone else from having to become knowledgeable about how to integrate social into their work.

I heard Dave Ridley at Southwest Airlines speak about how they trust their agents to make on-the-spot decisions about servicing customers. There is no manual saying go buy a Barnes & Noble gift card and expense it on Form #34-J-KL6. Employees are trained, then trusted to make the right real-time decisions. They are empowered to act and use their judgment. To act with empathy and kindness and smarts. If you are fearful of allowing your employees this right to engage fully on social – I can assure you social media is not the problem. It’s your hiring or training.



Today, I actually heard a marketer for financial services talk about how much more carefully they need to develop their UI/UX for B2B clients because of ‘consumerisation’. He mentioned that B2B clients never used to care about a product the looked good or could be used easily. I don’t believe that. Just because they have had to fight through clunky and complex enterprise systems for years doesn’t mean they liked it.

The effect social media is having on B2B is a positive one. We no longer hide behind brands and companies. We speak at conferences, we interview, strike partnerships and there we are—as a person—on LinkedIn, Twitter and other networks. It is me being me. 

But perhaps in B2B we aren’t comfortable talking about personal connection so we invented a word that was sterile and made it six syllables. Phew, we fixed that!  What’s happening is that we are humanizing the way we interact—“Please make the UI/UX simpler because it reduces my stress, eliminates errors that make me look stupid, and makes it actually somewhat pleasurable to get the task done.” This is a great transformation—but let’s lose the verbal baggage.


“I’m Old”

For about the 10th time this year, I have heard a CMO or senior marketing leader at an event describe how they have hired interns and daughters of the receptionist and MBA students to figure out what’s happening in social because they’re old. I applaud all efforts to bring expert resources to bear – but not when you are simply outsourcing the problem.

Old is a copout, it’s a bad mindset. Great marketers should pride themselves on understanding who their customers are, their desires and unarticulated needs, and how to meet them through a product, a message, or an experience. To ignore this vibrant social channel as a key method of reaching a customer is shortsighted and frankly lazy.