“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit” – W.C. Fields
Social Media is a new medium, consisting of new platforms for doing the same damn thing we in business have always done. There is not a new thing, not a new activity, and not a new method. There is nothing being done through social media that was not being done before. It is better, faster, more flexible, easier to measure, and cheaper to perform specific tasks. It is analogous to a new wrench, or a new pair of pliers. Therefore, it really does not require any new words. But oh, how they try…
I read an article last evening about Social Media that was so chocked full of Social Media buzzwords as to gag a maggot. I do not know when it began, but I know where. It began in Business Schools looking to eliminate the difference between business that win, and business that fail. Yes, it is that “Self-Esteem” nonsense again, having now spread to the business world.
When was the last time you read a business article that clearly said about a business that had failed: “That was a STUPID idea…” We never hear talk like that anymore. Good and Bad have been removed from the lexicon in favor of Buzzwords.
Example: After the extended exercise in Brand Destruction undertaken by Reed Hastings a year ago at Netflix, it was a rare thing to read someone speaking in clear and accurate terms about it. From an article from 9/26/2011 from a former Netflix employee, titled “Did Netflix Screw Up?”
“The success emboldened us and we gained confidence in this approach, each time finding that narrowing our focus expanded our opportunities.
I ask you, who talks like that?
Translation: “We made a lot of money, so we thought we knew everything”
Take the ridiculous term “Thought Leader”. Originally, this term was about a business or individual that was both successful and innovative in business strategy. The term has been dumbed-down to be about anyone with a different idea, success notwithstanding. Who cares if you have the slightest clue what you are talking about? What matters is that you said it first, baby!
Take “Social Signals” as another example of ridiculous word-abuse. Back in the real world, before the mad rush to turn Social Media into something worlds beyond the regular world of business, “Social Signals” used to be called “Recommendations” or “Complaints”, but again, in this day and age, we are not allowed to call winners-winners, or losers-losers.
“Nope, your restaurant did not just get a ton of terrible reviews on Google-Local for undercooked pork; you only got a mass of “Social Signals”, my man! I mean, so what if you put 20 people in the hospital, your analytics are rocking! ”High-Five, baby!”
I read the following paragraph last evening; Follow this paragraph, if you can:
“Unfortunately, when you spend a great deal of time examining the merits of social signals post transaction for a majority of small business, things are quickly muddied with unnatural behavior and constructs. More, it is at the point of interaction wherein real social signals can be aggregated from the consumer by the business. how one makes these signals available to the consumer with ease and at the right points in time, while prioritizing what signals may affect change the most for the business from a discovery perspective…”
Translation: “Know your customer, and make sure you understand why they are your customer”
I suppose there is nothing wrong with the above paragraph-if you would rather every head in your audience spun around Exorcist-style in the middle of your presentation, or you do not mind that your audience is strangely more focused on the coffee and doughnut table in the back of the room, than on your amazing insight.
I ask you again; who talks like that? More important; who talks to CLIENTS like that? You know who does, your friendly Social Media Consultant; that’s who. THIS, more than any other reason, is why most of them fail miserably. It is an attempt to appear more intelligent than the customer is. You remember that person? The one who is actually running a business, and probably knows more about same, than anyone fresh out of an MBA program? The one who is not still desperately trying to pay off student loans? Yeah, that dude. He’s been there, he’s done that. Do you think THAT GUY wants to hear you prattle on about “Social Signal Prioritization”?
It’s that woman who could not care less about your nutty Social Media ROI (or in human-speak-“return on investment”) calculation, she wants to know how you are going to increase profits to the point of paying for yourself. The thought that Social Media Consultants are running around trying to figure out what it is going to cost you to communicate with others is simply mind-boggling:
Business owner: “Hmmm, I wonder what it will cost me, if I communicate today?”
Social Media Consultant: “Well, I have a formula that will determine how much you will earn from communicating. It is complicated, but we feel that for every quantitative interaction, in your case, an engagement with your defined target in your pre-defined consumer space in the hope of constructive conversion……………”
Business owner: (in consultant’s fantasy) “Oh wow, tell me more, please!”
Business owner: (in reality) “Get out.”
It is for this reason that I love people like SEO Superstar Wil Reynolds at SEER Interactive. The dude only went from a one man shop to running one of Philadelphia’s fastest growing companies for 4 straight years, while also winning a “Best Places to Work” award in 2011.
Right now, businesses are struggling with this concept called “Content”, the stuff they put on websites and social media forums that describe what they do, and amazingly, many are finding it difficult. How well do you expect to do as a business, if you are having a hard time coming up with the words that describe what your business does?
Wil Reynolds will forever be known for a comment he made during a MozCon presentation: where he suggested that business that want to be successful with their marketing, do “Real Company Shit”.
We all know what successful business do, (sorry – “thought leaders”) they create or offer something of value, and then, they market the hell out of it. They tell their target customers what they have to offer, why they need it, and why the transaction is a win-win scenario, either by price, or by value. What is so bleeping hard about that?
Summary regarding Content: Try to write about what you do. It need not sound all lofty and professorial. Those who can, do. Those who can’t… (and that is why they talk like that.)
Tell your customers what you do. Tell them why they need to do business with you. Stop making it about you and your Baffling Bullshit Buzzwords. It’s about THEM. It’s about their priorities, not yours. You must speak THEIR language, and to the average Small-to-Medium Business owner, I can assure you that the vast majority of them do not run around trying to get all “Disruptive”, yo. <- the most annoying of all buzzwords since “Paradigm”. While we are at it- the only ‘Rockstars” are ROCK STARS, umkay? Stop it.
Richard Branson (one of my heroes, and probably the best CEO on the planet at the moment) recently was quoted as saying: “Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple.”
He is right. It is hard, but it is vital. We all want to sound brilliant, even if we aint. (sic)
Whether writing content for your Internet Presence, or speaking to a potential client, or even just a back-and-forth among friends, you really should consider whom you are communicating. My guess is that the many of the buzzword hacks are stuck in a world where they speak only to themselves.