Hiring an agency to help alleviate some of your already-stretched-too-thin staff members is a good idea — especially for social media marketing and content writing. But so many of them use marketing buzzwords and advertising jargon that don’t make any sense to anyone but them. It feels like you have to get an MBA just to be able to understand what they’re saying.
We’re here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way.
No, marketers don't have to talk like that — but there's a reason that they do. In the marketing industry, jargon tends to spread fast, and once it gets adopted by a few agencies, it basically becomes the de-facto norm.
While you certainly can find an agency that avoids the silly lingo (we certainly fall into that category), it's still good to know what everyone's talking about.
Here are some of the most meaningless marketing buzzwords and phrases you should be skeptical about.
What Does Disruption Mean? Who is a Disruptor?
What they say: We’re going to disrupt your industry and take over a larger portion of the market.
What they mean: It’s time to shake things up.
What they really mean: Your business needs some fresh ideas if it’s going to stand out in this space.
Think back to 2006. Blackberry had a stronghold on the smartphone market. Flip phones were still the rage among consumers. People were still texting using T9. Such simpler times!
Then in 2007, the iPhone came out and blew everything up. That’s what marketers mean when they talk about disrupting an industry. Whether you personally prefer the iPhone or an Android device, you can’t deny the effect that little shiny white device had on the mobile phone industry — and basically every other aspect of modern life.
However, disruption isn’t necessarily something people strive for.
It’s just something that happens when you make a really great product that fills a huge gap in the market.
"Instead of hiring marketers that focus on disruption, focus on creating really good products — coming up with a marketing strategy after that will be a piece of cake." - The Content Factory
When someone says they want to “disrupt” the industry? Really, they’re just letting you know that they want to come at it from a different angle. Beware, though — not every “disruption” is positive (and many people just aren’t a fan of the word).
Pivot to Video: Are We Done With Writing? (Probably Not.)
What they say: It’s essential for your social media content to pivot to video if you want it to be consumed.
What they mean: You need more video on your social media pages — especially Facebook.
What they really mean: Some marketers believe people don’t read
social media posts anything anymore.
Others believe they’ll be able to capitalize on ad revenue by inserting one of those super annoying ads in the middle of the video. They’re not entirely wrong, but they’re also not completely right. “Pivot to video” is a social media buzzword (or buzzphrase, in this case) that’s overused and frankly, overhyped.
First of all, people still read Facebook posts from your business, but they don’t want to read a huge block of text. They want to skim your post and keep scrolling. So in order to increase engagement some businesses are choosing to pivot their content to video.
The thing is: not all content should be turned into video (and Facebook back-peddled on their push to video, anyway — which is good, since they were lying about it).
Hiring someone to create a ton of videos for your page is going to cost you, so you should only do it if your specific industry has seen success doing so, meaning the food industry and in a very distant second, the beauty industry.
Videos of people cooking shrimp and putting it in a pasta dish with lemon cream sauce is bound to get a lot of views. Same with tutorials on how to create the perfect smokey eye.
But a video about how little the average American has saved for retirement? Unless you've got the production team of Vox, that's a hard pass.
On the other hand, if you were to take that same information and put it into a blog post with say, 10 tips and tricks to jumpstart your retirement savings along with some handy pie graphs, you’ve got yourself some worthwhile content and traffic going to your website. Put a couple highlights in the Facebook post, hint at more interesting info in the article and you’re good.
"The bottom line is that video simply isn’t necessary for everyone. If your marketing gurus are telling you to pivot to video, make sure you do your research on how successful such a venture is in your industry before you invest all that cash." - The Content Factory
What they say: Snackable content is the perfect way to reach your social media followers.
What they mean: Your content should be short and sweet so people don’t ignore it.
What they really mean: Pay us to make videos for you!
Snackable content goes hand-in-hand with pivoting to video and is perhaps one of the more annoying marketing buzzwords because it just makes people want snacks while they read your content. (Or is that just us?)
Most of the time, this means marketers want to help you create short, two-to-three-minute videos for you to post on Facebook or Instagram TV. Again, short videos aren’t always a bad thing. They’re just not necessary for every company in every industry. Choose wisely.
What they say: The best way to get your startup off the ground is through growth hacking.
What they mean: They want to help you grow your company as quickly as possible.
What they really mean: Growth hacking is centered around the concept of gaining as many users as possible with as little money as possible.
Doesn’t this sound like some clickbait buzzword you’d see in a social media post? 5 Ways to Growth Hack Your Startup into the Stratosphere. It sounds like ridiculous advertising jargon no one wants to be involved with.
The concept of growth hacking isn’t inherently a bad thing, though. Who wouldn’t want to save money while trying to grow a fledgling company? The term itself is MBA-speak-level irritating, but you’ll need to look past that and question their strategy, first and foremost.
Some growth hacking ideas are legitimate and solid — like SEO.
"SEO is one of the most cost effective ways to invest in your business because (when done properly) it will pay you back time and time again with organic leads." - The Content Factory
Other growth hacking strategies that do well are things like email marketing and social media, both of which can be done for free, given that you have the time or resources to do them yourself.
You’ll just need to be wary of the growth hackers who are trying to sell you get rich quick schemes. While you can probably have some quick growth at the beginning through targeted efforts like email marketing, social media, and PPC, some things just take time.
Second Screen: It’s Just Twitter. Really.
What they say: We need to come up with a catchy hashtag for the second screen.
What they mean: Let’s create a lot of marketing buzz!
What they really mean: We want people to live tweet during this event.
The “second screen” phenomenon says that people these days can’t just do one thing at a time. They’re watching TV while playing Candy Crush. Or tweeting. Or scrolling through their Facebook feeds.
This marketing buzzword is most often used when creating advertising strategies for TV shows. Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal, and general queen of Thursday night television, almost always live tweets during her shows. She often recruits a star from each show to live tweet as well, sometimes during a viewing in a different time zone. In fact, most TV shows’ official Twitter accounts live tweet to some extent.
It’s a way to engage with an audience in real-time and essentially hype up your show on social media.
This strategy can also be used effectively for trade shows but is not necessary for every situation.
Content is King
What they say: We have to get some newsletters out and update the website! Content is king!
What they mean: You need to be in front of your users more often.
What they really mean: We don’t know what we’re doing!
This one sticks in our craw because it’s not like the rest of the marketing buzzwords on this list. Call us mythbusters, because we’re busting this one wide open.
Content is king. Unless of course, you’re doing it wrong.
Content at its core is anything and everything you communicate to your current and potential customers. The content you create — whether on your website, through social media, or via email marketing — can be part of a solid marketing strategy that drives traffic to your website, generates leads, and converts those leads into sales.
But that content should focus on quality, not quantity, writing things like:
- Evergreen blog posts, especially those that quote relevant experts.
- Short-burn blog posts that are pertinent (and time-sensitive) to your audience.
- Accurate, updated website content that properly describes your products and services.
- Newsletters that provide value to your audience.
- Social media posts that help build relationships with your customers.
On the other hand, if you’re generating content just to get your brand in front of your users’ faces more often, you’re not likely to be as effective as you would be if you were doing it authentically. Customers can see right through that stuff and trust that it won’t endear you to them.
Customers want good content, which explains why so many people think this is just another annoying buzzword they need to kill.
Content is king because content is communication. End of story.
What they say: We need some actionable insights, so let’s conduct a survey.
What they mean: We don’t know what the customers want, so let’s ask them.
What they really mean: We don’t know where to go from here.
This is a simple marketing buzzword that’s just trying to mind its own business and is getting dragged through the mud. In business, there are so many things you don’t have control over, and actionable anything just means you’re looking for something you can actually affect or change.
If you conduct a survey to see why your customer satisfaction is dipping and you find out your product doesn’t work as well as you thought it did, that’s an actionable item for you. This isn’t irritating advertising jargon — it’s just an adjective.
What they say: We should use gamification to attract and maintain users.
What they mean: Let’s make your product/mobile app/service more fun.
What they really mean: People have terrible attention spans, so we have to trick them into using your product.
There’s some truth to this one — it’s not just advertising jargon meant to baffle you. Gamification means you’re adding game-like elements to your product, service, or mobile app that is appealing to users, making them more likely to use (and keep using) whatever it is you’re selling.
Elements of gamification are everywhere. Have you ever read an article on a website with a little bar that creeps to the right across the top as you read the article? It’s telling you how far you are along so you’re more likely to keep reading. (It totally works, doesn’t it?)
Starbucks (among many others) gamified their rewards program. You begin at the Green Level and if you earn 300 stars within a year, you’re upgraded to Gold Level — but you have to buy a whole lot of $5.00 drinks to get there.
"Gamification in and of itself isn’t a “bad” idea, but be leery of how much you use it. If your gaming elements are too complicated or are overly abundant, people will tune them right out and it may have a negative effect on user engagement." - The Content Factory
Like many other marketing buzzwords on this list, you should beware if an agency tries to tell you that you need to gamify your product or service. Before moving forward, consider if this strategy makes sense for you and your company.
What they say: For the next product launch we really need to tap into advertainment.
What they mean: The ads need to be entertaining.
What they really mean: The ads need to be memorable.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: advertainment is perhaps the most irritating marketing buzzword out there. Please don’t say it.
It just means that your marketing and advertising strategy needs to be entertaining and fun, but most importantly, it needs to be memorable — and not for the ads themselves, but for your brand.
There’s a lot of debate over whether or not funny ads are effective. People tend to remember the ad, but not the company that made it. One particular company has a commercial featuring elderly people working jobs that young(ish) people typically have — lifeguard, DJ, firefighter — while a chorus of people sing I’m 85 and I wanna go home to the tune of The Banana Boat Song by Harry Belafonte.
It’s hysterical (albeit, depressing if you’re in that situation), but who can remember who actually made that commercial?
Sure, your ads should be entertaining, but they also need to fully integrate your product or your brand. No one should be walking away from that ad with questions about what it was for. Don’t let the entertainment value supercede its purpose: to sell your product or service.
(It was E-Trade.)
What they say: It’s important to create an omnichannel for your brand.
What they mean: Your messaging needs to be the same across all social channels.
What they really mean: We sell social media marketing services.
Omnichannel refers to creating the same user experience for followers, regardless of whether they’re viewing your content on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, or any other future social media apps people invent.
That’s all there is to it!
But here's the thing: it might not be the right call. While you need to be active on every social network that makes sense for your business (and you need a unified message) you absolutely should not just share the same thing on every network. Best practices across social media are not universal!
What they say: We can totally make your marketing campaign go viral!
What they mean: Millions of people will see your content!
What they really mean: We can’t promise anything… but, uh, we can try?
“Going viral” is probably one of the most understandable pieces of advertising jargon, in that basically everyone knows what it means.
Here’s the cold hard truth, though: You cannot predict what will go viral and what won’t. No one can. Around here, we like to say the chances of you going viral are akin to the planets aligning and a leprechaun catching an Uber ride from a pink unicorn. It’s hard to go viral and literally no one can guarantee it for you.
If marketers are telling you they can make it happen, they’re lying to you.
Of course, there is a brief caveat here: if you are willing to spend a ton of money, then yes, you can “make” something go viral. But will it stay viral? Will it be successful? Will it be outed as corporate shilling? Those questions are much harder to answer — and most “viral” agencies will shy away from them.
Hiring Agencies that Don’t Overuse Marketing Buzzwords
Saying you should hire an agency that doesn’t use any social media or marketing buzzwords is unrealistic. Some terms that end up on lists that call for death to particular buzzwords are actual marketing terms that everyone is going to use. It’s when the firm you’re looking at is speaking almost entirely in buzzwords that you should be skeptical — why can’t they skip the jargon and speak you in a language you can understand?
At The Content Factory, we do our best to make sure we’re keeping the advertising jargon to a minimum, and when we do use it, we explain what it means. The better you understand the process (and the more it works), the more you’re likely to stick with it. No one wins in this situation if the strategy is abandoned too early.
If you need PR, social media, or content writing services, get in touch with us today. We promise we won’t sell you on snackable content ideation that will growth hack your startup to new heights.