Keep It Simple: Stop Social Media Speak

Early mornings on the Twittersphere never cease to amaze and inspire me. This morning, it was a post by Mitch Joel that flew by in my stream, retweeted by someone or another. I passed over it at first. Then something drew me back to it, and I clicked the link.

Now, anyone who knows Mitch Joel (personally or otherwise) or frequents his blog Six Pixels of Separation knows he is one smart guy. And a straight up writer. And the post I read today didn’t disappoint. Titled “9 Glorious Truths About Creating Great Content”, it lists important considerations like ‘You are not a machine’ – and my personal favourite – ‘Editing content is hard.’ But it was number 8 that really caught my eye – ‘Complex is bad.’


In a nutshell, the best content is not complex, it’s simple, real and honest. The reason this resonated so viscerally with me is because I’ve been chewing over this very thing lately. A lot. In fact, last week, while swimming in a fog of illness and antibiotics, I wrote a particularly scathing post about the issue. Thankfully I managed to surface just long enough to say “Self, shelve that until you are more clearheaded.” Yes, it was that nasty.

Buzzwords Kill Kittens

Jim Jones had nothing on the whole social media industry. We are the biggest group of Kool-Aid drinkers to have ever populated a public space. Before you start hollering “Off with her head!” let me assure you I’m right in there with the best of them! Glass houses and all that. And I get it, every industry has jargon and lingo and those twitch inducing buzzwords that make you sound really cool and smart but mean nothing at all to half the people you’re talking to at any given moment. But Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I think social media tops TV, Hollywood and even the sports world – all rolled into one – for jargonistic analogy and ‘say nothing’ phraseology.


I read a blog post last week – on a corporate blog – that was presumably put out to inform and inspire their current community, as well as draw in new customers. No exaggeration – I did not understand one single word. In fact, I kept reading only because I couldn’t believe how incomprehensible it was. I’m aware there are a core group of folks out there, smart scribes like Gini Dietrich at Spin Sucks and Erika Napoletano at RedheadWriting, who consistently write about cutting the crap and just getting down to business. In fact, if you Google social media and buzzwords, you’ll find thousands of articles disabusing the practice of regurgitating the same old same old – but it never stops.

Seven Nation Army

So, consider this my plea. In the words of the great Jack White, let’s build a seven nation army to stop social media speak. Use the odd bit of jargon, but don’t populate your entire post with it. It tells me that you don’t really have a clue what you’re trying to say. It isn’t the least bit interesting. And I’ve just left your site for someone else’s.

Note: Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes is a killer song. The video is even better. If you didn’t click the link, go back and do it NOW!

Thoughts? Do you get valuable information from jargon’y, buzzword filled content? Do you find it as frustrating as I do? Am I just stoopid…? (Maybe!) Would love to hear your comments and personal experiences. 

22 thoughts on “Keep It Simple: Stop Social Media Speak

  1. Thanks for the mention, Lindsay! Heavens, I don’t know who has time for crap – I sure don’t. I rarely even have time to scoop it out of the cat box, y’know? We could all do with less and I’m honored that you feel I’m one of the ones who dishes out as little of it as possible :)

  2. Oh, you would guilt me with the ol’ cat box mention! (I have two!) lol
    Seriously though, the buzzword thing drives me beyond batty. Thanks for doing what you do Erika. It’s people like you who give me hope! Appreciate you stopping by, cheers, Lindsay :)

  3. I’m not a big buzzword fan or acronym fan. I think you should make it as easy as possible for any audience to understand what you’re writing about. That’s just me though. It will be interesting to see what others have to say.

  4. Not only do I love this post because it’s clear, concise and no BS – though all of those things are absolutely stellar, in my books – I love it because there’s a White Stripes video linked to it. Seriously, how can I ever top this?? 😉

    Honestly, just the words “buzz words” make my head ache. I get that we manage to evolve our speech patterns into using specific, industry-related phrases – that’s only natural. But c’MON. I’ve been involved in a few meetings where I swear I wanted to play Buzz Word Bingo (which I’m pretty sure I’d have won. A lot.).

    Just be REAL. It’s not nearly as hard as people think, and it makes even the biggest of douchebags (can I say that here?) look like less a douchebag (again – can I? ;)…or vice versa. I’d much prefer to listen to someone speak in a way that’s actually comprehensible, myself. Then again…I’ve always been a bit of a whiner. 😉

    • Firstly – you can use any language you like here – douchebag is one of my personal faves! lol And you’re not whining at all Tabatha, because the key word you used above is REAL! Can’t we all just talk and convey information in a simple, honest and REAL way?? That’s all I want to see happening, because the next time I read a post like the one I mention in the story, I swear to god my head is going to blow right off!! :) Thanks as always for stopping by! Cheers, Lindsay

  5. Just had to share my favorite example of this:
    “Accelerating Social Maturity: How Data-driven Strategies Transform your Marketing from Social Experimentation to Top-Line Results”
    What the hell does that mean?

  6. Hello my friend! Thank you for the nice mention. My comment won’t be nearly as funny as Erika, but here goes.

    We have a client who has created their own dictionary because NO ONE speaks the way they do. It drives me batty. I try to explain that if they have their own dictionary, they’re clearly not doing anyone any good. I’ve also explained that, many years ago, a reporter friend called me and said, “Gini, help me. What is the c-suite?” So something as simple as what we call, in business, the executives (or senior leadership) isn’t as simple as we think.

    What’s the rule? Speak and write at an eighth grade level? Yeah. Do that.

  7. Squeee! Gini, look at your smiling face up there! I’m so glad you left your thoughts. :) I am absolutely stunned that a company had to create their own dictionary – I mean, the very act of doing that should tell *someone* that they’ve jumped wayyy too deep into that sea of jargon and forgot the life raft!! Sheeesh. I constantly have to Google terminology and jargon (I Googled C-suite also!) before I have a frikken clue what people are trying to say. And if I’m a consumer? Guess what. I wouldn’t bother to take that time, I would just take my business elsewhere. Love your writing, keep on cutting the crap girl! Cheers, Lindsay

    • Hi Lindsay,
      I can’t believe I have never been here! Where have you been all my life? :) So glad Gini pointed me this way this morning. This is right up my alley, and I am responding down here because my aunt works for IBM, and they have their own dictionary too. It’s crazy talk over there!
      I was googling some of their job titles to understand what they do, and even that didn’t help. What’s the point, then?

      • Hi Lisa! So glad to finally meet you (sort of). Thanks for the kind words that I could understand. 😉 I can’t imagine having a “company dictionary” though I would think if any company *would* it would be IBM. Hilarious. Love the work you do over on Spin Sucks, and really glad that we’ve now connected! Cheers, Lindsay

  8. This is one of my perpetual frustrations with any discussion about social media – and some local marketing folks in my area are some of the most egregious offenders. Buzzword counts would make a fine drinking game, wouldn’t you say?

    I enjoy a theoretical and technical discussion about the role of new media as much as the next bloke, but it doesn’t encourage businesses from A to Z to participate more meaningfully in the social web. I’ve blogged about this very topic before – you’ve kicked me in the arse to revisit the topic soon.

  9. Excellent! Glad I could be of service with a good swift one! :) Can’t wait to read what you write about it Jason, the subject does seem to hit a nerve in a lot of folks. Thanks so much for leaving your thoughts, I really appreciate it. Cheers, Lindsay

  10. Hi Lindsay!

    Loved the post, and completely agree with the movement for no-jargon. My partner and I work with nonprofits, and if I had a dime for every “internal speak” and acronym I’ve heard, well… I’d be writing from the bahamas, on a cruise ship I own.
    BUT, I do have one teeny little issue. You say “But it was number 8 that really caught my eye – ‘Complex is bad.’”
    I disagree. Complex is great! Complex is the world we live in. I think I feel strongly about this because as a communications person, people often think I’m asking them to “dumb-it-down” when I ask them to simplify. No. What I mean is that our job is to communicate the most complex ideas SIMPLY. And that’s where your point about exiling jargon to somewhere on the outskirts of the Milky Way is spot on. We do need to use “real”, honest, simple (and powerful) language to explain the most complex – and the not-so-complex ideas.
    By the way, on a related note, we have an “over-used” and “underutilized” #wordoftheday on Twitter, in an effort to help nonprofits move away from jargon – and cliche. (We are @take2services).
    Look forward to following and reading more from you!

  11. Hello, and thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment! Now, I’m going to “see your point” and raise you an “I never said to dumb it down”! :) In fact, as I wrote above, I’m saying the same things you are, that “..the best content is not complex, it’s simple, real and honest.” As you said, the world/most of our day to day lives are already extremely complex – we are bombarded with information these days at a rate never seen before in history – people just don’t have the time nor the inclination to try and wade through incomprehensible posts or articles.

    I’m looking forward to your “words of the day” – and also waiting patiently for my invite – I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise!

    Enjoy your weekend, cheers, Lindsay

  12. I’ve always hated industry jargon, especially when used in real life! I find that listening to Jonathan Coultan’s “Re: Your Brains” helps lighten the situation. I also hate having to work in the marketing world designing sites that I KNOW consumers find spammy, but I’m required to make them anyways. I’m hoping more industries start moving towards using everyday vernacular (within reason, of course. we don’t need companies to start lol-ing) and talking to consumers as people.

  13. Hi Danielle, Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I am a firm believer of “humanizing your content” – people need to understand what you’re talking about for god’s sake! Even worse when you’re chairing a meeting and your employees have no clue what you’re talking about! :) Keep fighting the good fight, and I’ll check out “Re: Your Brains”, thanks for the tip. Cheers, Lindsay

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