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.
Language is powerful and has a huge impact on the sentiment your content expresses. Nobody—not even a social media marketer—is perfect, so it’s understandable that a company’s social media feed may have the occasional language choice misstep.
Here’s a collection of wince-worthy words—broken down into four categories—to ban from your social media vocabulary.
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4 types of language to ban from your social media posts
You know that feeling when your dad asks about the “hippity hop” you’re listening to? That’s the same feeling audiences get from brands who try 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. While a company like Taco Bell has a brand voice that allowed for the application of “I can’t even” at its peak, they have worked hard at establishing and maintaining this very specific tone.
- 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.
- Fam: If calling your audience ‘fam’ (as in, family) fits your brand voice, don’t let us hold you back. But chances are if you’re running a business, your customers might not be ready for this informal label.
- Pepe Meme: While not a word or phrase, the popular Pepe the Frog meme has unfortunately become associated with racist and bigoted themes. Don’t use it.
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. Mashable even crowned it “the buzzword you can never escape.”
- 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.
- Millennial: Used by marketers to “describe people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s,” the term “millennial” has become meaningless. While it may be helpful when your brand is trying to connect with a more mature audience who are trying to understand a younger generation, no millennial will self-identify as such. Being stereotyped in general is off-putting, and as described in our post all about the term, “there are countless competing views within that age bracket as to what is popular and what isn’t.” When marketers use the word “millennial” as an all-encompassing 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 hyperboles 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.
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
These kinds of nicknames, while seemingly innocent and fun, can actually have detrimental effects on your professional persona. When Jeff Barrett asked his Twitter community what they thought of these self-made job titles, he found that 9 out of 10 people felt that they devalue the person and cause others to take them less seriously.
“When someone works to showcase themselves as an expert, and then resorts to a self-declared tacky title, there’s something weird,” Christa Freeland, marketing specialist for Powershift Group in Austin, Texas, explains, “A lot of the time I see the marketing and social media types using this terminology, and it doesn’t help their case.”
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. Stay woke, fam.
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