• Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010


I’m on a bit of a rant today. Before we get started,  If you are not familiar with buzzword bingo, take a moment and watch the clip….I’ll wait.

Somehow, it seems that even though most marketers had figured out buzzwords were bad, they are making a comeback.

The quote below is word-for-word from a rather expensive looking insert, in an even more expensive looking direct-mail piece I recently received.  Ordinarily I like (Well, I don’t hate it) direct-mail, when it’s done correctly.  But this thing, which is titled “Who We Are” just talks in circles.  I’m sure I lose brain cells each time I read it.  I’ll hide the name of the company, partly because I think they are idiots, but more importantly, I don’t want to help them spread their name even a little bit.

“XXXXXX is a full-service social technology partner.
A global leader in the practice of digital consulting, community building, technology solutions, and digital measurement, XXXXXX helps our clients leverage the power of social media to drive greater value and success for their businesses.

Using expert cross-discipline strategic thinking paired with leading-edge customizable technologies, we create unique and innovative solutions that thrive in the ever changing and challenging online environment.”


I think what that means is they have to cool, new ways to use social media that will make more money for their customers.  If that is what it means, why don’t they just say that?  Or at least speak plain English.

The flip side of the piece does have some of the same techno-babble, marketing-speak but is actually understandable.  When I read the “what we do” section, I actually come away with a good idea of what they do.  It’s hard for me to believe the two sides of the sheet were written by the same people.

However, the bad taste and foul stench of the “who we are” blurbage makes me wonder if that’s how they’ll try talking to me if I were a customer.  No thank you.

Social Media is conversations and relationships.

It’s great to have tools and technology to help you with your Social Media, but keep in mind that a fool with a tool, is still a fool.  If you can’t (forgive me) engage your community, all the tools in the world won’t help you.  Techno-babble, marketing speak won’t help you.  Well, if you’re targeting 1992 era marketing people, then maybe they will.

You need to speak the language of the community you are reaching out to, and hopefully since they are your customers you know how to do that.

If you’re trying to sell tornado insurance to an Arkansas trailer park resident, you better not talk to them like they are playing a role in Macbeth.  And visa-versa, of course.

It’s not rocket science folks, this is old-time advertising gospel;  People respond better to images and language that reminds them of themselves, or who they want to be.

I don’t know about you, but who I want to be is NOT a 1992 marketing professional.

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3 Responses

  1. Jack,

    As I read your post, a couple of things come to mind. First, it’s easy for Social Media folks to get caught in the echo chamber. They don’t seem to have a grasp on what will resonate with their customers. I’m guilty of this too. I catch myself (and others) saying things like, “I build communities, I help you connect with your customers and have them connect with each other to help you understand your business.” Kumbayah. What I mean is, I can help you increase revenue and/or reduce costs by changing the way you learn from and interact with your customers and other stakeholders.

    Second, Rachel Happe left a comment on my blog post yesterday ( which reminded me that we, as professionals in this field of new marketing/community management, need to make sure this industry does not disintegrate into a bunch of fast-talking, quick sale to the lowest bidder technology folks. Social media/community building is not about the tools, it’s about building a strategy that will work for you and your stakeholders. Now we just need to focus on educating folks about how to separate the wheat from the chaff. As you say, it’s great to have tools but it’s about the strategy behind them that makes those tools valuable.

    Great post!

    Heather | @heatherjstrout

  2. 2
    @katebuckjr  //

    Agree, agree & agree.

    I used to play Buzzword Bingo on twitter on Friday’s… never took a long time to collect all 10 words in tweets from my stream. (always meant to write a blog post about it… now I just might!)

    As a matter of fact, I do believe I’m still the reining champion… Any challengers?

  3. It’s easy for someone to hide their inexperience and lack of understanding of how business works (let alone marketing of any specialty) behind big words and complicated sentences that will force the recipient of the message into a labotomty-esque coma. What’s harder to do is to distill your message down into a format that nearly anyone can understand and still retaining your sense of authority and expertise. That can only be done when one truly knows what they’re talking about in my opinion.
    This piece of marketing is a good signal that they don’t know what they *truly* do themselves, or how it will *actually* benefit their customers. Either that – or they simply do not understand marketing. Either way this is not a company I would ever want to do business with.