As I write this, I’m sitting on JetBlue flight 755 to Austin, jostling with Contently co-founder Shane Snow for enough elbow space to type. In three hours, we’re going to land at SXSW Interactive, a five-day hole in the spacetime continuum where buzzwords are the official language and startup tees are the space-age uniform.
It would be impossible to write a guide to all the buzzwords at SXSW. Like the indestructible Mr. Smiths from The Matrix or Kanye’s ego, they regenerate faster than you can knock them down. But by focusing on one type of buzzword in particular—content marketing buzzwords—we can make a dent.
When I first went to SXSW as a baby-faced journalist in 2011, content marketing was relegated to a few cramped panels in the basements of two-and-a-half-star hotels. In 2012, there was an entire two-and-a-half-star hotel devoted to content marketing. Three years and a bajillion percent increase in content marketing spend later, the words “content marketing” appear on the SXSW schedule nearly 1,300 times. That, my friends, is the type of meaningless stat that’s going to help us raise our next round of funding and help me justify writing this guide to content marketing buzzwords you’re going to hear way too much at SXSW.
If you haven’t yet, read my January roundup of content marketing buzzwords that will ruin your year. They’re sure to be out in full-force over the next 10 days. But these next 10 buzzwords—many taken from the suggestions you tweeted at me—will be thick in the air as well. Let’s get to it.
This buzzword is used a lot by agencies, but I have absolutely no idea why they’re so obsessed with sounding like a protractor. From my understanding, 360-degree means your agency does everything a brand needs, to which I call BS. That’s like me telling my girlfriend I can do the entire Kama Sutra. We can do some things, and we can Google the answers to others, but that’s about it.
2. Relationship building
Today’s content strategists and consultants basically sound like my 85-year-old Jewish nana, obsessed with saving you from dying alone. Hundreds of professional yentas will be running through 6th Street this weekend trying to convince you that if you stop talking about yourself for a second, you’ll find that special someone and settle down to build an audience. Honestly, they’re right, but the moment their spiel starts to get annoying, wrap a scarf around their head and start singing show tunes from Fiddler on the Roof.
At this point, is there anything that doesn’t exist on multiple media channels? I guess the front door to my apartment only exists in reality, but considering all of the Jewish Museum tours that go by, it’s probably been snapped, grammed, and Meerkated by now. Your content is multichannel—congratulations. So are my six-year-old niece’s drawings. (Plus, your content probably isn’t creative enough to involve a princess riding an elephant.)
4. Bespoke content
“Bespoke” is the shiny varnish and rear spoiler that 20,000 content marketing startups will slap on their 1989 Honda Civic of an offering this weekend. Listen, if all you can really offer is the same generic brand-safe listicle, it’s not bespoke. And honestly, I can’t imagine anyone doing truly original work calling it “bespoke”—the word just reeks of bullshit. And if you hear anyone say the words “bespoke storytelling,” sound the alarm because there’s a sociopath on the loose.
5. Actionable insights
I haven’t taken math or science since high school and only passed calculus because my Russian teacher was so taken with how much Dostoyevsky was screwing with my hormonal 16-year-old brain, but nothing makes me feel more like a badass marketing superhero than liberally throwing around the words “data science” and “actionable insights.” I’m taking data-packed insights and turning it into actionable mission-driven decisions and saving the freaking world. Translation: I look at our analytics platform (Contently Insights), which a 7-year-old could understand, and see that you guys love anything that involves Seth Godin, Facebook’s algorithm, or buzzwords. And then I’m saying, “Yeah, let’s do more of that.”
6. Sticky content
Because at the end of the day, we’re hoping to make readers feel kind of gross and like they need to take a shower.
7. Social reach
The greatest scam in content marketing is “social reach”—a fantasy metric that you pull out of your ass to justify a social media campaign that was way too expensive and didn’t deliver tangible ROI. (Trust me, I used it when I was a 23-year-old social media consultant and had no idea what I was doing).
It goes like this: You launch a Twitter campaign or some sort, but only Steve (3,500 followers), Jane (1,000 followers), and Brett (500 followers) shared your content. Instead of admitting that maybe 100 people even saw their shares, you assume every single one of their followers saw their tweet, because in your fantasy world, Brett, Steve, and Jane have the most devoted followers on Earth. So you claim a social reach of 5,000. And if Brett’s follower Ray (2,000 followers) retweets his tweet? Oh yeah baby, that’s a social reach of 7,000. Repeat this trick until the aging CMOs of the world decide to devote an hour to actually understanding how Twitter works.
8. Hashtag mining
If someone uses these words, there’s a 97 percent chance they’re going to sell you some obscene technology-based social media product that will force you to explain to your boss why you spent $15,000 to know that Dan from Tallahassee used your hashtag seven times. But hey, he has 700 followers, so you can spin that into a social reach of 50,000, right? Let’s not let math get in our way.
9. Brand evangelist
Don’t tell my nana, but I’ve given up Judaism for Tide.
I didn’t know this buzzword was a thing until recently, and it was the first time I was scared to Google a buzzword. What have our lives become? Let’s all just go live in the woods, make canoes out of rotting logs, and braid each other’s hair with good vibes.
Buzzwedge came about because apparently we didn’t have enough terms to describe the act of a brand stupidly inserting themselves into a trending topic. (#TheDress is brand color #1 & Brand color #2!) Get it? Something’s buzzing and you wedge yourself into it because you’re a monster and feed off vanity metrics like the souls of the young and innocent.
Got a buzzword I missed? Tweet me @joelazauskas and I’ll keep an ear out for it in Austin—and maybe include it in my next roundup.