Yes, content marketing is about telling stories, building relationships, and growing your audience, but it’s also about using so many marketing buzzwords that you wonder what kind of monster you’ve become.
This existential alarm is all part of the job. The important thing is to be conscious of the horrible buzzspeak that’s spewing out of your mouth, lest you find yourself one day on stage wearing an orange jumpsuit and telling everyone about the value-adding revolution in conversation marketing.
Here are 10 content marketing buzzwords to watch out for the rest of the year. Some are very new; others have been lurking around for a couple years but are now primed to blow up. Regardless, these words are poised to sneak into your meeting rooms, board rooms, pitches, brainstorms, and even your brain, like the Yeerks in Animorphs. Except in this case, there will be no magical teenager turning into a lion to save you.
We’re to blame for this one. Specifically, Contently co-founder Shane Snow is to blame. Shane started writing about the importance of brands becoming storytellers in 2012, and then he just kept writing about it—Google “Shane Snow Storytelling,” and you get 330,000 results. Hell, he even used a story about Ryan Gosling and Justin Timberlake to argue why brands should become storytellers, and since he has 7 trillion LinkedIn followers, everyone read his posts and turned a perfectly nice word into an abominable marketing buzzword.
Now, every person, brand, and agency identifies as a “storyteller.” That generic toilet paper brand? It’s a storyteller. Jim the lead-gen guy? He’s a freaking storyteller. He’ll tell you a 90-minute story about his leaf-blower, but damn it, he’s in marketing and he showed up to work today, so he gets to be a storyteller too. “Storyteller” is the youth soccer participation trophy of the marketing world, and you’re only going to hear it more this year.
2. Snackable Content
Gary Vaynerchuk attempted to explain short-form social media content by talking about punching people in the face. For whatever reason, that didn’t really catch on. So instead, some social media agency came up with a more delicious-sounding way to talk about half-assed social media posts—snackable content! It’s a term I love to use simply because it fills Contently VP of Content Sam Slaughter with so much rage.
What is snackable content exactly? A snack, inherently, is relative; it’s simply defined as something less than a meal. If your usual meal is three steaks, can a steak be a snack? If your usual content meal is a buzzword post that runs 20,000 words, is this 1,500-word post on marketing buzzwords a snack? Is a Mila Kunis meme snackable if you print it out and cover it with Cheez Whiz? Discuss among yourselves.
Storyscaping is a buzzword with its own tagline: “Stop creating ads, start creating worlds.” That makes it sound like it’s coming from someone trying to recruit a bunch of ad people to quit their jobs and play World of Warcraft all day, but, in fact, it was established by two of SapientNitro’s top creatives for their bestselling book, Storyscaping.
In the video below—after the authors get done calling themselves brave for introducing it to the masses—the concept begins to make more sense. Basically, you should help consumers become part of the story you tell since that’ll make them much more likely to remember it. So the big question: Are you ready to leverage UGC for a 360-degree storyscaping initiative that will engage a high-value audience in your brand’s core target demo?
Remember the early days of Twitter, when you’d use “tweet” as a verb and no one knew what the hell you were talking about, which in turn made you feel really superior? “Snap” is kind of like that and comes with the added bonus of making you feel young and hip. (I don’t know anyone over the age of 25 who uses Snapchat regularly, and I don’t know anyone under the age of 25 who doesn’t use Snapchat regularly.)
This year, brands are going to be “snapping” a lot more, as Digiday reported earlier this month. Amazon, Hollister, Macy’s, Samsung, Universal Pictures, and McDonald’s have all run Snapchat campaigns in recent months. Fifteen months ago, the idea of a brand “snapping” you would have sounded insane—everyone thought Snapchat was only used for sexting. That feels like ages ago; now, everyone’s realized that people use Snapchat the same way they use every other social platform: to share selfies of themselves and pictures of their dog in a Christmas sweater. Expect damn near every teen-targeting brand in the world to run a Snapchat campaign this year.
5. Conversation Marketing
“‘I just want to have a conversation with a brand’… said no one ever,” is an old social media marketing joke, but it might finally be proven wrong this year. I’ve been bullish on chat apps as the next great content distribution and marketing platform, and I feel even stronger about that after speaking yesterday with Paul Gray, the director of product at Kik. Teen-centric brands have seen some insane success over the past few months using Kik’s new Promoted Chats. SkullCandy, for instance, has amassed 400,000 conversations in two months while seeing click-through rates 15–20x higher than Facebook. The vast majority of these conversations are handled by robots, but kids seem to be really into that today.
Get ready to hear the term “conversation marketing” from the 19-year-old who’s going to take over your social media department in Q2.
6. Owned Media/Owned Audience
I will turn these into proper marketing buzzwords, even though neither variation is remotely catchy. But here’s why I think these will take off: Many brands are doing content marketing all wrong.
The wonderful thing about the Internet is you can hire some smart, entertaining, and creative people to develop an awesome online media property, and then you can use paid distribution channels to drive people to that content and start to build a loyal audience. You can do all of this relatively cheaply—at least as far as marketing budgets are concerned. And before long, you generate a following and don’t have to pay for people to consume your content, because they come there naturally through email, social media, and direct traffic.
But most brands aren’t doing this.
Instead, most brands are renting an audience. They’re paying six figures to put some content in front of another publication’s readers—readers they have no hope of reaching ever again unless they write another six-figure check. It’s not innovative; it’s no different than paying for a TV spot.
2015 is the year smart brands realize the true promise of content marketing and start creating robust media properties—and audiences—they own. Or at least I hope so.
7. Content Studio
“Brand newsroom” is out. Content studio is in, and forward-thinking brands that care about creating owned publications are building them. This buzzword was started by publishers who wanted to launch editorial teams to create native ads for brands but didn’t want to call those groups “newsrooms,” lest Jeff Jarvis have an aneurism on Twitter. Brands like Marriott are now adopting the term, too, and it’s probably more accurate. But still—R.I.P. brand newsroom. What the hell are we going to do with this interactive guide now?
8. Culture of Content
Do you have a culture of content? If you do, you probably know this buzzword features alliteration, a detail you won’t have to point out when you share this post in your company Hipchat, because everyone cares about content just as much as you do.
This buzzword has been making the rounds ever since Altimeter released its best practices report, “A Culture of Content,” which details how brands can transform their organizations into places capable of creating high-quality content. It’s an important topic because many brands are, quite honestly, labyrinths of bureaucracy where it’s nearly impossible to produce timely, original content that’s actually enjoyable to read or watch. That, in turn, makes it difficult to recruit top creative talent since that type of environment is suffocating to work in. (Tl;dr: You can’t succeed at content marketing without a culture of content.)
For now, it’s great that people are using this buzzword. But in six months, it’ll be insufferable.
9. Data-Driven Publishing
By this point, it’s becoming abundantly clear the fastest-growing media companies (BuzzFeed, Vox, Upworthy, etc.) are so successful because they’re obsessed with analyzing every bit of data available and using that data to ensure their content is optimally crafted and distributed in a way that will let it spread like wildfire. This is in contrast to the old method of throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks but then not really wondering why some things stuck and other things didn’t.
Shane Snow detailed last week why BuzzFeed uses data brilliantly and why a lot of brands will (or at least should) copy their techniques. This will be a big topic of discussion in 2015, though for most brands, consistently optimizing data is still a few years away. After all, it only works if you’re creating oodles of content to analyze and can justify the existence of a data scientist to your boss.
10. Growth Hacking
Once a buzzword reserved for startups, growth hacking is now a full-blown marketing term. Every brand is trying to build a following of some kind, and they’re looking for shortcuts. Personally, I feel bad for the verb “hack,” which is just being butchered at this point. Tweeting your content at relevant influencers, for instance, is not a growth hack. That’s a growth caress (which I hope to god never becomes a buzzword.) Yet every growth caress is being called a growth hack. Let’s reserve this buzzword for real growth hacks, like breaking into The Economist‘s Sailthru account and stealing their mailing list.
But we won’t. We’ll call every mildly competent thing we do as content marketers a “growth hack.” Because we are monsters. Buzzword-spewing monsters.
Got a buzzword I missed? Tweet me @joelazauskas. It’ll give me something to do while I avoid cracking the code on content marketing ROI, which is another buzzword that certainly should have been on this list.