Have you ever cringed at something a brand or business said on social media? Often, small words can make a big difference in how brands are perceived.
And mistakes do happen on social media. Nobody—not even a social marketer!—is perfect.
To protect from any misstep here’s a collection of cringe-worthy words—broken down into four categories—to ban from your social media vocabulary.
Bonus: Get the step-by-step social media strategy guide with pro tips on how to grow your social media presence.
4 types of language to ban from your social media posts
1. “Hip” lingo
You know that feeling when your dad asks about the “snazzy song” you’re listening to? That’s the same feeling audiences get from brands who try too hard to be cool. Unless it fits your brand voice, using overly trendy lingo is a risky move for most professional organizations.
Brands don’t decide what’s cool—audiences do. When businesses try too hard to seem cool, they risk alienating their audience.
Some examples of words and phrases that you might want to swipe left on if hoping to avoid making your audience cringe in embarrassment for you:
- AF: This acronym is used to help get a point across. For example, “I am hungry AF.” The ‘A’ stands for ‘as’ and the ‘F’ stands for a certain four-letter curse word. We’ll let you fill in the blanks.
- I can’t even: A term that suggests you’re so overcome with emotion that you can’t form words. It’s a piece of adolescent slang that got picked up so quickly by brands that it became rapidly uncool. Now it’s outdated, which is even less cool.
- Lit/Turnt: These mean essentially the same thing: to be intoxicated and hyped up on an event or situation. Unless they fit your brand voice, it’s probably a good idea to leave out of your social media lexicon.
- Chill: A term used to describe someone’s level of coolness. For example, “I like hanging out with them, they’re super chill.” Brands don’t get to decide what’s cool, remember? So avoid using this word unless you’re talking about the weather.
- Gucci: You might recognize this word as a famous luxury retail brand. Well, according to Refinery29, that’s not what teens are referring to when they use it. Instead, “Gucci” means that something or someone is cool or good. For example, “Sounds Gucci.” If you’re searching for another word to use instead, just say “good.”
- Hundo P: This shortened phrase simply means 100%, as in something is definitely going to happen. It also signals enthusiastic approval and/or agreement. For example, “Hundo P it’s going to be sunny” or “Hundo P that was the worst dinner.” Brands thinking about trying this out? Hundo P not a good idea.
- Totes: Nope, this isn’t referring to a nice set of practical handbags. It means “totally,” as in complete agreement with someone or something. For example, “I am totes going to that party.” While this might not be the trendiest of terms, it’s always cringy to use in your social posts. Teens can use it and look cool and ironic. You can’t.
- #Goals: In most business contexts, this word is used to describe your professional intentions and/or future achievements. To everyone else on social, #goals is typically something you say when you’re showing support for someone by suggesting that you admire them and want to emulate them. For example, in response to an Instagram post featuring a delicious meal, someone might comment, “#foodgoals.” If this word is used in the right context, you might avoid eye rolls. However, it should be used sparingly.
2. Meaningless jargon
As a marketer, your job is to make sure your brand’s message is clear. Unfortunately, the use of marketing jargon, buzzwords, or ambiguous terms by businesses on social media is all too common. This practice alienates audience members who don’t immediately understand what the content means.
“Jargon masks real meaning,” Jennifer Chatman, management professor at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business tells Forbes. “People use it as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction that they want to give others.”
Some common examples of marketing jargon to avoid—in your social media content or when discussing your strategy—include:
- Viral: This refers to the phenomenon where online content receives an exceptional amount of engagement across social media networks. And social marketers sometimes use the term to describe their content goals. Instead of saying that your goal is for your post to go “viral,” it’s better (and easier) to establish measurable goals. For help with this, check out our guide to setting smart social media goals.
- Synergy: This typically refers to the interaction between two things that creates a better result. But in the business world “synergy” is one of those terms that gets thrown around so often that it’s lost all meaning.
- Optimize: This just means to make something as efficient as it can be. But the word ‘optimize’ has now become a catch-all for simply creating good content. You’ll often hear that “the post has been optimized,” when usually that simply means that the post was edited or reposted at a more highly trafficked time of day. This is another case where it’s better to just say what you mean, rather than throwing in a word that makes you feel smarter.
- Bandwidth: As a technical term, this refers to the amount of data that can be transmitted in a certain amount of time. When used as business jargon, it speaks to a person’s capacity to take on more work. For example, “Do you have the bandwidth to run another social media channel?” Consider swapping out “bandwidth” for “time” to keep things simple.
- Holistic: A term that means to examine something as a whole based on all individual components. This descriptor can be used in many different contexts, like holistic medicine. In business, it refers to a strategy that will take an all-encompassing approach rather than focus on one individual part. Unfortunately, it often gets overused in situations where it’s not necessary, which dilutes its meaning. Does “holistic social media strategy” really mean anything different—or add more value—than “social media strategy”? As a general rule, remove adjectives.
- Millennial: Used by marketers to describe an age demographic of people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. In certain instances, like reports or surveys that examine broad behaviour trends, labelling age demographic categories can be very helpful. However, terms like Millennial and Gen Z are often overused in broad sweeping statements that stereotype behaviour without the backing of any real data. When marketers use the word “Millennial” as a blanket descriptor, they are missing the mark when it comes to authentically targeting their social media content.
Clickbait refers to sensational headlines that don’t deliver on their promise. As The Guardian’s Charlie Brooker explains, “We’re trying to fit in because exaggeration is the official language of the Internet, a talking shop so hopelessly overcrowded that only the most strident statements have any impact.”
If you want your brand’s authority and clout to remain intact, avoid using hyperbole in your social media posts.
A helpful tip for avoiding clickbait is to ask yourself whether the claim you’re making is really true. Some common terms to stay away from include:
- Top/Best: Can you really back up a claim that what you’re offering really is the “best” advice? Don’t give your audience an opportunity to doubt you or question your credibility.
- Worst: Same tip as above. If you’re going to say something is “the worst,” make sure it’s true.
- Need: Again, ask yourself if this is the best word to use in your social media content. Does somebody “absolutely need to see this,” when “this” is a video of yourself acting out a Shakespearean scene with your ferrets? When you deem everything you post on social media a “need to see” or a “must-read,” it becomes a “boy who cried wolf” situation—and your audience will catch on quickly.
- Only: While it’s tempting to declare your post is the “only guide to _____ you need,” the truth is that there are probably other posts of the same type and with similar information out there. When you use this kind of language, you again give your audience a chance to challenge your claims, which can cause you to lose credibility.
4. Cringe-worthy job titles
The final group of terms to consider cutting from your social media vocabulary has to do with marketing job descriptions. Some of these that I have come across include:
- Social Media Ninja
- Marketing Rock Star
- Content Maven
- Social Media Guru
- Social Media Hacker
- Growth Hacker
- Social Media Vixen
These kinds of nicknames, while seemingly innocent and fun, can actually have detrimental effects on your professional persona. As Seshu Kiran, Founder and CEO at XAir says, wacky titles are counterproductive because they don’t speak directly to your skills and experience.
According to a study by Digital Media Stream Agency, 72 percent of people in tech admit that they don’t use their real job title when talking to people outside the industry. That signals a huge comprehension gap that isn’t doing anyone any favors.
The immense power of language means that careful consideration of the words and phrases you’re using in your social media and content strategies is key.
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