Buzzwords are terrible. But let’s not kid ourselves. We’re still going to use them, and we’re still going to hear them on a regular basis. Merely acknowledging them as buzzwords, or identifying that we use them too often (or inappropriately) isn’t going to make them go away. So instead, let’s take a look at some of the most egregious buzzwords in the online marketing community and figure out how we can interpret—and use them—better.
What Makes a Buzzword a Buzzword?
The strict definition of a buzzword is a word or phrase, often a novel one, that has become overused or popularized to the point where it’s become a fad. That alone isn’t a problem, but as the buzzword becomes overly circulated, it begins to lose some of its intrinsic meaning. Its popularity becomes a kind of substitute for its own meaning, motivating people to brandish the term without fully realizing its intended significance, or forcing them into pre-made “boxes” of thinking that limit their creative faculties. Accordingly, it’s in our collective best interest to identify these buzzwords, use them correctly, and prevent them from infecting our lines of thinking.
Wikipedia has a great list of buzzwords if you’re looking for some introductory examples.
These are some of the most common—and grossly overused—buzzwords in online marketing:
- Low Hanging Fruit. The term low-hanging fruit has been applied to a number of areas, not just marketing. As a metaphor, it works well; low-hanging fruit is fruit on the bottom branches of a tree that’s easier to pick. In a marketing context, this can refer to a few different things, but it’s often applied to target customers that are easy to reach, or a marketing strategy that’s easy to use. The trouble with this phrase is that it implies that the easier targets are always the better targets. In reality, sometimes the high-hanging fruit is sweeter, and sometimes there’s more fruit up there to be picked.
- Drinking the Kool-Aid. Drinking the Kool-Aid is a somewhat insensitive reference to cults whose members drank intentionally poisoned beverages to commit mass suicide. In marketing, it’s used in reference to a brand that’s following a sensationally popular strategy without questioning it or modifying it, or to describe an individual who goes along with a leader’s plan without criticizing it. There are two implications with it I don’t like. First, it implies that doing something popular is inherently bad. Second, it implies a degree of fatalistic certainty—that you’re going to die (proverbially) if you’re influenced by a trend in any way. Though I have to say, blindly copying or following a strategy is usually a recipe for disaster.
- ROI. ROI, return on investment, is an important principle in marketing. Theoretically, it’s going to tell you exactly how much money your strategy brought in, compared to how much money you spent on it. Again, ideally, it’s the best method you have to measure your effectiveness, but it’s brandished as the be-all, end-all, only consideration you should bear in mind for your strategy’s effectiveness. The trouble is, not all benefits are so easily quantifiable. How do you concretely measure reputation benefits? Brand recognition? Internal employee morale?
- Viral. As a content marketer, I love the concept of going viral. A piece of your content, upon going viral, will circulate in a series of shares and forwards until it reaches exponentially bigger circles of readership. But “going viral” isn’t concretely defined; at what point do you actually achieve virality? It’s also notoriously hard to achieve, with a lot of luck involved. And to make matters worse, “viral” is painfully overused. This wouldn’t be such a problem if it didn’t set such high expectations for people—now every new marketer in the world thinks they can get millions of views if they crack the “secret” of going viral.
- Millennial. There’s nothing wrong with categorizing a generation; baby boomers are different than Gen Xers, who in turn are different than millennials. We all have unique, shared tendencies and characteristics that define us as a generation of people. My problem is that the term “millennial” has been exploited, shoved into headlines to make them pop out in newsfeeds, usually without any actual empirical research about the millennial generation to back them up.
- Clickbait. Clickbait is an overused buzzword that describes headlines that are intentionally written to attract clicks, often with unsatisfying results on the other side. What this term refers to is shoddily written content, usually gimmicks, that require almost no investment of time, effort, or quality. However, the term neglects one important fundamental truth; all headlines are written to attract clicks. Otherwise, nobody would click, and the article would fail. Therefore, all articles are clickbait in one way or another.
- Storytelling. I get it. Storytelling is a cool idea, and stories tend to yield deep, emotional, human connections. But depending on how you want to spin the term, almost anything you write can be a “story.” The lack of specificity here makes this buzzword useless unless it’s coupled with more specific direction and examples.
- Content is King. I’ll be concise here; content is the single most important online marketing strategy you can pursue. It affects your brand on countless levels, and ties into practically any other marketing campaign. However, this idea isn’t adequately captured in this trivial, ambiguous phrase, nor does it begin to describe what kind of content you really need to succeed. In short, it’s an oversimplification, and it’s misled a number of people about the nature of content marketing.
I’m not saying you should never use these buzzwords, or that they aren’t effective in some contexts. Instead, I’m encouraging you to think carefully about how you use these words as they apply to your own online marketing strategies. I’ll continue using them, as will you, so let’s make a promise to each other to use them sparingly, and as appropriately as possible.
In the meantime, if you want some “real talk” about marketing, be sure to reach out to us here at dopplepop Marketing for a free consultation.